Are Remote Employees Less Likely to be Promoted?

Remote employee.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclaimer for more info.

While remote work is here to stay, there can be some downfalls of this form of work. One of which is about the potential for your career progression. 

A common question that arises, are remote employees less likely to be promoted? Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of truth to this question. But, your career doesn’t have to stall when working remotely either. 

Below, I’ll get into some of the data around this and how to ensure you remain visible to managers in order to grow in your career remotely. 

The Challenge

Personally since working from home, I have not experienced challenges in getting promoted. 

In my last role, the company started out as a hybrid before moving to completely remote. And during my almost six years there, I was completely remote and I was promoted from marketing manager, to head of marketing, to director of marketing along with raises. 

But this was just one company and my personal experience where I was fortunate to have that growth. It doesn’t mean other remote employees are not facing career progression challenges. 

As I explored this topic further, I came across a 2019 research study published in Organization Science. And it was interesting what they found: 

In the study, it showed that “face time helps employees receive better work and leads to career advancement because it is a strong signal of their commitment to their job, their team, and their organization.” (Inc)

What this generally means, is that when employees are physically visible and work closely in-person with managers and leaders, they are perceived as better workers than those working remotely. Even if that is not true.

So this doesn’t mean managers are necessarily ignoring remote employees for promotions on purpose, it just happens naturally in many cases. 

What the Data Says

During your career, you probably have set some goals to get promoted. Whether that is to a different department, higher up the career ladder, as well as salary increase. 

Naturally, as remote work exploded in necessity and popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, a ton of research has been conducted around working remotely. 

Everything from productivity, to demand by employees, to average savings for company and employee, etc. 

And one area that has been extensively studied before the pandemic, was the impact of being promoted when you work remotely. 

Here’s what some of those studies and data says: 

  • 2015 Stanford Graduate School of Business research found that remote workers were less likely to get promoted — even though they were an average of nearly 15% more productive than their on-site peers.
  • In Vyopta’s 2022 Survey, “The Challenges of Hybrid Work”, they queried 200 U.S. executives with the minimum seniority of Vice President on a variety of questions relating to the state of their workforces, which included remote and non-remote employees. From that, 41% of survey respondents said remote employees would be less likely to be considered for promotion.
  • In that same survey a above, 43% of executives surveyed agreed that remote employees are less wired into a company’s culture, whilst just over half (52%) felt employees working from home or elsewhere were “overly reliant on others to be able to collaborate remotely”.
  • Data from the Office for National Statistics, found people who mainly worked from home were also around 38% less likely on average to have received a bonus compared with those who never worked from home over a seven year period.

Yikes, not the best news. 

But these statistics tell me that it’s more of an executive or manager perception issue currently. 

Whether those leaders feel remote employees are less engaged or aren’t connected to the culture – there clearly  is a bit of negative perception for those working remotely.. 

What we know is that much of the data around remote work shows more productivity, increase in business results, and more. 

For example, a past study by Stanford of 16,000 workers over 9 months found that working from home increased overall productivity by 13%.

But, that doesn’t change how many leaders offer promotions to remote workers. 

Overtime, I hope to see more data around if remote employees are less likely to be promoted. A lot has changed in recent years with remote work. Plus, younger generations are getting into leadership positions.

So it would be interesting to learn how perception and promotions improve for remote employees as more companies work on remote policies and grow out of these perceived biases towards in-office employees. 

How to Ensure Career Growth in Remote Work

As much as you love working remotely, it’s obvious that in some instances getting promoted could be a challenge pending where you work.

A potential solution is to work for a hybrid company. Where you can be in the office a few days per week and have that in-person connection.

But even if you are fully-remote, you shouldn’t have to switch to hybrid in order to be seen for a potential promotion. 

With that said, here are some ways to ensure you remain visible to colleagues and leaders even if you aren’t working in the office. 

1. Work for a company that has a strong remote culture.

When a company has their remote work culture dialed in, you can bet that working remotely won’t negatively impact getting promoted. 

A company with clear remote guidelines and even has a person working as the Head of Remote, will ensure you have the best opportunity to grow in your career.

I think there is still much more progress that needs to be made. And many companies who have gone remote are still figuring it out. So this is not as realistic for everyone to work for a company with strong remote culture.

2. Be proactive instead of reactive.

Working from home or remotely will require strong communication skills. And not only that, but the right communication process to ensure you are delivering insights into your work, projects, and ideas. 

Instead of waiting for managers or colleagues to ask about something, already share that ahead with them. You’ll remain top of mind and show you are a master of async communication

3. Stay connected with managers.

In a remote setting, you have to put in the effort to build that working relationship with managers and colleagues. Have frequent check-ins whether via chat or email and schedule those 1:1s to get some face time on a recurring cadence. 

You’ll want to find the right balance, as you don’t want to be annoying or constantly nag everyone. But these are great times to share ideas, some of your work, offer help, and more. 

4. Embrace virtual water cool chats.

Water cool chats are when you are in the office and run into colleagues grabbing coffee or water. It’s just a comm business phrase. But often it’s a great way to connect on a personal level with others. 

Yet, you can still accomplish this similarly via virtual water cooler chats. You can schedule your own or maybe your company uses a tool like Donut that hooks into Slack. Either way, coordinate these and get to know your co-workers.

5. Keep your video on during virtual meetings.

There are times where it’s okay to have your camera off during virtual meetings. But 1:1s with managers or team meetings, you really want to be visible on camera. 

Often there are assumptions that if your camera is off, you aren’t engaged with work or the company. And that can hinder your chances of being promoted. 

6. Maintain a record of feedback and results.

Set a recurring task for yourself once a week to keep track of positive feedback and results you generated. This allows you to refer back to particular incidents and highlight why you are ready for a promotion. 

Even keep tabs on things that did not go well, but the lessons learned and how you would approach it differently. 

And honestly, it doesn’t matter if you work remote or not, this is something you always should be doing. Not only for promotions, but for any potential job search you do in the future.

Final Thoughts

Potentially, there is a good chance that getting promoted in a hybrid setting will be easier for you. 

Since we have seen with the data and research above, those in the office may reap the benefits of having consistent face time with managers. 

Is that exactly fair?

Of course not, especially if you are working hard and remaining in consistent communication. The way you get promoted should be the value of your work and you as a professional over anything else. 

So the good news…

Many organizations have improved their remote processes and ensure career progression is a focus for their entire team. 

But you will still face some bias in companies, who inherently have been used to the traditional ways of work. 

What I’ve found is in remote-first organizations, you typically won’t face challenges around getting promoted. And the same with companies where the majority are working remotely. 

If you do find this challenge in your remote role and the above tips haven’t helped, then it might be time to switch jobs. There are plenty of supportive organizations that will promote based on merit, not whether you show face in the office more than others. 


Curated Content Directly To Your Inbox.

We'll send you the latest content, career tips, and remote jobs every Tuesday.

Start Over

Share this post 👇

About Todd Kunsman

Todd is the founder of Remote Work Junkie and has been featured in numerous publications like Business Insider, HuffPost, CNBC, and more. He’s been a remote work advocate for close to a decade and has been working remotely full-time for 5+ years. He’s also a marketing, personal finance, and music nerd 🤓

Related Articles
Organized desk working from home.
By Cora Gold • April 29, 2024

How to Stay Organized When You Work at Home

If you want to be successful working from home, you have to get organized.  Finding your “work from home”  groove

Work from anywhere globe.
By Todd Kunsman • March 28, 2024

20+ Remote Companies That Let You Work From Anywhere

While more companies are exploring remote work, not all allow you to work anywhere in the world.  Some remote jobs

Lonely remote worker.
By Cora Gold • March 23, 2024

11 Tips to Avoid Remote Work Loneliness or Isolation

While remote work is generally very positive, there are also some downsides as well. Just as a hybrid role or

As Seen On