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I Work Remotely, But My Co-Workers Are Returning to the Office—Here's What Career Experts Told Me to Do

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I started at CNBC in September 2020, and like everyone else on my team, I was working remotely.  I interacted with my coworkers over Slack and Zoom, and it was months before I saw any of them from the shoulders down.

But a few things have changed over the last few months. For one, I shifted roles, meaning I had a new manager and new teammates. For another, NBCUniversal asked that their employees begin returning to the office — three days a week in the case of my team.

Here's the thing. I live in Washington, D.C., some 230 miles from the rest of the Make It team in midtown Manhattan. CNBC knew that when they hired me, and I'm thrilled to report they have kept their promise to let me remain remote, even as my co-workers return to work in person.

But as our offices have become a lively place of business again, I have found myself feeling like a bit of an outsider. Chats about what's going on in New York? Right over my head. Tasty pastries up for grabs in the kitchen? Not for me. And when my team meets together in a conference room, there's my face on a giant TV screen (I think).  

I'm not alone. More than half (54%) of workers are still working fully remote, according to data from Monster.com, and 54% of them have never met their co-workers in person.

Navigate that situation incorrectly, and you could be missing out on more than muffins. "The fear is out of sight, out of mind," says Stacie Haller, a career expert at ResumeBuilder.com. "You want to make sure you're in the mix and on an even playing field with your co-workers."

What to do if you're worried you're out of the loop at work

If you're also concerned you're becoming disconnected at work, your top priority, career experts say, is to make sure you get at least some face time with your team and your manager. Tell your boss how beneficial it would be to meet with your team, and price out how much a trip might cost, says Vicki Salemi, a career expert at Monster.com. 

"Even if they tell you the budget is too tight, it might be worth it to go out of pocket," she says.

Besides a trip north (which is already on my calendar), workplace experts told me to schedule regular time with teammates to shoot the breeze about anything but work. "Maybe one day a week for 30 minutes you schedule virtual coffee and just chat," says Salemi.

It's also wise to network with co-workers who you may not work with directly. "Maybe you set a goal to meet three people at the company this quarter," says Salemi. "This could be a good way to find a mentor. It's important to have a person looking out for you and filling you in about goings-on at the company."

As for my bosses, they've been excellent about making me feel every bit as much a part of the team as the in-person folks. But if you're worried on that front, be sure to ask how you can advance your career as a remote worker, and communicate that you'd like to be considered for raises and promotions alongside everyone else. "Managers want people who want to grow and learn," says Haller.

Hopefully that's exactly what I'll keep doing at Make It. I'll just have to supply my own desserts. 

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