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How do you solve a problem like... standing out from the crowd while working remotely?

How can you make sure you get the credit you’re due when you’re not in the office?

Each week, we ask readers of The Drum – from brands, agencies and everything in between – for their advice on real problems facing today’s marketing practitioners.

Working from home certainly has its advantages. The dress code is relaxed, you’re in charge of Spotify and the commute is very short. One downside, however, is your reduced visibility – especially to managers and supervisors. And if they can’t see you working hard, you might miss out on credit due your way or opportunities for advancement. In the UK, employees who work from home have been found to be half as likely to be promoted, as staff that work from the office

That concern will surely grow in coming months, as workers across the world are gradually summoned back to the office. The boss of Morgan Stanley, for example, warned staff last week their careers would stagnate if they opted to remain at home.

So, how can you make sure you’re standing out from the pack? We asked our new Future 50 inductees for their advice.

How do you solve a problem like... standing out from the crowd when you’re working remotely?

Maria Dahlberg, marketing executive, Financial Times

Working from home has been a positive shift for me at the FT. We’ve been supported to make it work and given greater flexibility in how we do our jobs.

There’s been less reliance on formal meetings and we’ve embraced technology to stay connected. Tools such as Slack, Trello and Google Workspace have allowed us to track progress and share updates. I’ve built deeper relationships across the sales team and been in contact proactively to remain visible. New livestreamed commercial townhalls and weekly newsletters have helped improve communication too. Weekly shoutouts in the newsletter have meant that colleagues (including myself) have been thanked publicly for our contribution, which has been a nice way to recognize the hard work being done at home.

Eilish Ashworth, senior marketing manager, Specsavers

It is the stuff you would do in the office (for example, quality, reliable and timely delivery of work), but you need to learn to amplify the effects of what you and your team are doing to stakeholders. In the last year this has often been about reassurance that you are ‘on it’. You also need to be available, able, willing and accepting of fast change requirements – the only constant in the last year has been change. And finally, crucially, chatting to and supporting one another. How do you replicate that ‘water cooler conversation’ remotely? It takes time and effort to reach out and see what’s on people’s minds.

Sam Quinton, designer, Calm

There’s only one surefire way to get noticed more while working from home – get a cute and obtrusive pet. Failing that, something that’s been introduced at Calm since lockdown which has helped individuals shine are our weekly Show & Tell meetings. They’re a chance for someone to showcase a project to the whole organization – giving a behind-the-scenes look into what’s gone on. As the audience, you get to know the presenter, their role and their project even better than you would from chatting by the office kettle. As the presenter, you get a decent shot of confidence from presenting and a buzz from the flurry of supportive messages afterwards. It’s one work-from-home thing I’d be happy to see sticking around.

Danica Nelson, senior product marketing manager, Shopify

My top three tips for standing out while working remotely: do things and tell people, advocate for yourself, and don’t be afraid to share your accomplishments broadly (with quantifiable results).

We’re often told that ‘good work speaks for itself’, but that’s not always effective in a remote environment.

Stay connected. Book regular recurring meetings with team members both inside and outside of your direct team to build strong relationships. Build and maintain your personal brand. Be in control of how people talk about you when you’re not in the room (or virtual hangout). Be consistent in delivering remarkable work, be authentic, and stay on top of your lifelong learning plan to fill any skill gaps.

James Lace, assistant brand manager, Guinness, Diageo

Focus on your work, not trying to impress others. I believe this has always been true, and working from home hasn’t changed that. Do brilliant work and accolades will come – plus it will be impossible for anyone to ignore you.

However, it’s important to recognize marketing is inherently a relationship business and therefore you must build authentic connections in a virtual world. As a junior marketer I recommend connecting with a senior stakeholder to set up a ‘reverse mentoring’ program. You share learnings on hot topics like digital or new ad-tech and in return receive career advice, all while building a stronger relationship.

Joseph Pek, head of social media, WeTV SEA

This is the time to be vocal about your ideas and feedback. Don’t be afraid to share any ideas that pop up at any time of the day and even get a few of your colleagues to co-ideate. Take advantage of the situation to sharpen and show your leadership skills; start with a small initiative and move on to a bigger project – that physical barrier is out of the way with the current virtual situation anyway. The initiative taken for your brand will not only make you stand out from a virtual crowd, but also really instill brand love, and that goes a long way in creating good work.

Amelia Carter, programmatic specialist, William Hill

With less personal interactions it was down to me to make an impact on the programmatic world.

I decided I needed to use my own initiative and have a clear focus to spearhead my growth. Since implementing this focus, I spoke on a New Digital Age roundtable and part of the Programmatic Pioneers third-party cookie panel. In addition, I wrote articles for programmatic publications. I also met my match on Bloom (a professional network for women in communications), became a mentee and was assigned my Bloom mentor. Recently, I have become involved with Outvertising and paired with my LGBT+ ally to grow my self-awareness.

Adam Mills, head of marketing, BT Group

I’ve tried my best to keep on keeping on to stand out over the past 18 months – I think it’s the smaller, slightly simpler things that are really easy to do that make a big difference. For instance, making your out of office a bit more interesting (and human) than ‘I am on annual leave’; building relationships with stakeholders through asking about the pictures on their walls and showing that you care; or setting up conversations and virtual coffee breaks with people you’d normally bump into in the office, but you’ve not had the chance to speak to properly in a meeting. Being yourself at work has never been more important to stand out.

Sophie Hill, marketing executive, Rothley

I think working from home successfully is all about good communication. I know keeping track of constant Zoom call appointments can feel like a job in itself, but it is so important for people to see you and feel like you’re still actively present in a group dynamic. It’s those moments of office chatter or casually dropping in to see a colleague in another department that really makes the difference and makes you memorable.

A ’coffee morning’ or a Zoom lunch hour as well as your work-focused calls can be a great way to stay in the loop, stay sociable and stand out from the home-working crowd.

Lisa Boyles, senior social media manager, Giffgaff

Working from home comes naturally to me as an introvert. The key is to be fully present in meetings/Zooms where you can add real value or want to make an impression. Not only camera on if you can, but by not being visibly distracted (in other words, stop answering emails on the side). My other advice is to set strict boundaries that you rigidly stick to, and your colleagues will respect this about you. One of many examples is that I will always go on my daily lunchtime walk, and if meetings are scheduled during that time I request that they’re moved or I’ll take them while walking.

Nichakorn (Deer) Prateepsawangwong, regional PR and social media manager, Pomelo Fashion

As working from home becomes the norm, employees are taking on more responsibilities and it’s our job to ensure they are noticed and noted. Always make an impact during each virtual meeting. Refine your thoughts and get your message across. Our days are now filled with many virtual calls. Your boss will appreciate straight-to-the-point information that allows them to get their job done. Make sure to have your points made to the right people. Email or share a written summary of your updates and achievements with constant follow-through.

At the same time, express your enthusiasm and be proactive about your career growth with your boss. Let them know your achievements deserve a promotion or recognition.

Maged El Wakeel, regional consumer marketing specialist, Canon Middle East

For many professionals, I’ve noticed a lot of good work goes unnoticed just because they kept their heads down and quietly performed their roles when they moved to working from home, as it wasn’t clear how to substitute a simple interaction such as asking the person next to you or sharing some news.

The key here is to maintain overall visibility by communicating and engaging with others across your organization in a virtual world.

Lim Ben-Jie, head of e-commerce, AirAsia

More than a year into the pandemic, standing out from the crowd really falls back on remaining optimistic on the prospects of a recovery and a brighter future ahead. Most peers would agree that there is no way we could have worked harder or better if we were in an office or at home. Hybrid working will be the future so it’s not about standing out from the crowd anymore – we are very much part of the crowd itself. Most organizations including AirAsia have been open in adapting to this cultural change, redesigning policies and mental health programs for employees to stay upbeat and motivated.

Syed Asad Ali, brand manager, Sendinblue

You should pretend that you’re working from the office, even if it’s from your living room. If working remotely has taught us anything, it’s to be involved, be visible and be engaged. Proactivity is essential. Be sure to come prepared to every meeting with new ideas. At Sendinblue, our whole Toronto office meets every day for 15 minutes to check in and discuss our weekly goals, which encourages participation, accountability and keeps us all in the loop on what the rest of the team is focusing on.

Mariia Merzliakova, brand manager, SexyHair

Be proactive. It is hard for managers to notice your work while being remote, so take things into your own hands. It doesn’t mean sending tons of unnecessary messages to try and seem active, but rather being on top of your projects, offering coworkers help and sharing fresh ideas with the greater team – this will increase your visibility and help the manager stay up to date.

Also a small tip that I found very helpful: switch on your camera whenever it’s possible (even if it’s not required). The more people actually see you, the more they remember you.

Josh Mendelowitz, digital marketing manager, Refinitiv

Make time for regular informal chats with your coworkers and teammates. Remote working can provide huge boosts to your productivity, but it can also mean missing out on the types of natural social interactions that result in closer bonds with your team and network. Scheduling time in the calendar forces you to keep those relationships strong.

And don’t forget your career development. I recommend finding a leader in your company or industry that you respect and ask if they are willing to mentor you virtually. Meeting with a career mentor will provide a welcome respite from your usual work day and enable you to approach your career progression in a more thoughtful way, all with the support of an experienced guide.

Alex Hannah, digital marketing executive, AON

In my role I encourage colleagues to use social media as a way of advancing their careers, and LinkedIn in particular is a powerful tool for shaping your personal brand. People wrongly assume that it’s only client-facing roles that can benefit from posting about the value they create, however I would encourage everyone to ask themselves the question, ‘who are the key stakeholders I want to influence and what do I want them to know about me?’

Start off a with a few short posts, and over time perhaps look to build up to longer-form content shared through LinkedIn’s blogging platform, Pulse, as this will cement your status as a thought leader in your field. Over time why not experiment with video content? It can be highly effective in helping build a complete picture of you as a human being beyond the job title.

Grace MacDonald, marketing manager, content social, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions

It’s hard to stand out from your bedroom or kitchen table – pair that with Zoom fatigue and the past 18 months, and it drops low on your list of priorities. I received excellent advice once: “You need to act like a publicity agency and think of yourself as a brand.” Although it can feel unnatural, with practice it pays off.

Internally, start before the project – whether you’re leading or executing, ensure you’re on the decision-making framework. Do an internal pre-launch roadshow. Throughout the project, present at strategic meetings to share learnings and results, bringing them on the journey. Externally, use your LinkedIn to network and share behind-the-scenes stories about your work. It’s all about staying top of mind and taking every opportunity you can to show up.

Isabelle Gormezano Marks, brand manager, Small Beer Co

One of the most powerful ways to be heard is to bring people into your idea. Far from being protective, invite feedback and get other people excited and involved in what you’re doing. That’s how you get buy-in from the wider team and it’s ultimately how you get recognition. After all, two minds will always be better than one, and it will mean that when it comes to the final result, they’ll be able to see just how much of you is in the work.

Find out who’s been listed as one of the best emerging marketers in the world by visiting The Drum’s Future 50 list.

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