Everyone knows that the workplace changed dramatically when the world suddenly had to figure out how to work together without physically being together. What those around you might not realize is that the rules of ambition changed too.
Some get-ahead tactics vanished — no more casual drop-ins to decision-makers, no more in-person observations of body language. However, since our pivot to remote work, some things have gotten better: 77 percent of those who work remotely at least a few times a month are more productive. Still, how can you ensure that your career goals and ambitions don’t get stalled by an artificial cap, determined by the limits of remote and hybrid work?
There’s a world in which the meetings you attend via video conferencing are focused on ideas instead of tech glitches — the choppy video, muffled words and background noise that prevent ideas from being seen and heard in the way they deserve. The principle that gets you there is called meeting equality — the ability of all meeting participants to be heard with greater clarity and seen with equal power, regardless of physical location. This concept — and the technology that helps you get there — can transform your meetings to the point where nobody remembers who attended in-person and who didn’t.
Meeting equality doesn’t just elevate your meetings, though. It elevates you.
In the hybrid workplace, your digital presence is your professional brand
The shift to remote and hybrid work brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is projected to last well beyond public health need: Nearly half of current remote workers say they’ll look for another job if their workplace mandates a return to the office, and only 10 percent of executives say they expect their workforce to spend 80 percent or more of their time in the office going forward.
That doesn’t mean the work itself is changing. “We’re bringing things back to the fundamental definition of work, which is basically technology, people and space, and how they’re interrelated,” says Chris Moss, VP and global sales CTO at Poly.
This triangulated relationship has required a shift in how we approach our professional image. Once upon a time, that might have been about cultivating a work wardrobe and a knack for networking. Today, it’s equally about learning how to be seen and heard in a hybrid workplace.
“How you show up on a video call or LinkedIn is your brand,” says Mary Jeanne Vincent, a career expert and strategist. “It’s your brand regardless of what you tell me your brand is — it’s what I perceive it to be.” When something distracts from that perception, your professional brand can go awry.
Picture two people, each brimming with talent. One of them consistently shows up in hybrid meetings looking and sounding professional, with no background noise or technological issues distracting from their ideas. Another consistently shows up with dark or grainy video and repeatedly has to be told, “You’re on mute.” When opportunities arise, leaders are going to reach for the person who brings skills without distraction.
“When you show up confidently, when you know you look good and sound good on video, you come across as competent. But it’s easy to lose ground if you don’t project a professional brand,” Vincent says. “Your ideas are discounted.”
Proximity bias, or the tendency to favor those we see more readily, is another barrier remote employees have historically faced. “Just socially speaking, you’re going to tend to give priority to somebody that’s right there. So how does technology help us compensate for that?” says Victor Cora Nazario, chief operating officer at SOAR Community Network LLC, a consulting business helping organizations develop a people-first approach to innovation.
Proximity bias isn’t just about sharing a physical space, though. It’s about access to the ideas of people around you. Left unchecked, proximity bias can lead managers to promote or financially reward in-office workers over remote workers. But you can mirror the benefits of physical proximity with its surrogate — meeting equality and its associated technology — giving your managers and colleagues a consistent line of sight to the ideas, contributions and passion that have brought you this far.
The right virtual collaboration tools help boost your personal brand
Technology can’t magically give you a professional presence. What it can do is elevate your workspace — whether that’s a private office, the table at your favorite coffee shop or the classroom.
Take audio quality. “All these features out in the world, but the No. 1 feature that’s actually used is mute,” Moss says.
But the mute button has its limits. When you’re making a key point in a discussion, asking co-workers to “hold that thought” as you press mute to accommodate a passing siren or a barking dog risks undermining your message. Tech can eliminate that stress: Virtual acoustic fence technology found in Poly headsets and video systems takes the anxiety and fatigue out of putting yourself on mute, Moss says. “I have confidence that no one can hear what’s going on outside of what they see, which allows me to stay focused.”
It’s also easier to stay focused if you’re not concerned about your on-screen appearance. Working from home means you’re not at the mercy of harsh fluorescent lighting, but it could also mean that the lighting in your workspace results in a grainy visual for your colleagues.
Adding a pro-grade camera with automatic lighting balance will project the best image of you on-screen. And if you’re in-office, where harsh overhead lights can smother your facial expressions, cameras that reflect your natural coloring can help your remote colleagues see your intent, not just your features.
Working remotely gives you the ability to move freely. A camera with automatic framing lets you stand, sit, pace — whatever position allows your creativity to fly — without losing focus on you. Which means your colleagues won’t lose focus on you, either.
The effect of better meetings lasts beyond the meeting itself
When your ideas are getting their due because they’re being seen and heard clearly, your impression extends far beyond the time actually spent in meetings. Better communication increases understanding between you and your co-workers, enabling you to cultivate deeper relationships. It supports the work-life balance that has become the holy grail of today’s workplace. And when you’re seen as a true collaborator who comes to meetings with clear ideas and a vivid presence, you’re one step closer to being seen as a leader.
Among executives, 72 percent say that seeing remote workers via video helps in-office workers and managers develop trust in them. That trust can support future collaborations, regardless of whether you’re an in-office or remote worker. If you work from a shared workspace, you may already have plenty of face-to-face time with your in-office colleagues, but you might be missing out on building trust with your remote colleagues who can help develop your ideas and partner with you on future projects.
Using video and audio technology to enrich relationships is about more than sharing your ideas with greater clarity. It can also serve as a platform for building trust and collaborating efficiently without needing to be in the same room. “You need to be genuinely interested, and show your interest,” Vincent says. “I don’t think you can build a rapport when you’re distracted or when your camera is off because you’re concerned about how you come across.” Better audio quality also directly nurtures relationships — research published in Science Communication shows that good audio can have a profound effect on the emotional well-being of the listener.
The impact of meeting equality even extends beyond your actual job. When you improve communication efficiency, you save time — your most important commodity. Strong sound quality on calls could result in users gaining an additional 30 productive minutes per week, bringing you closer to realizing the promises of hybrid work: flexibility and work-life balance.
But the greatest promise of meeting equality may be in how it builds leaders. When you demonstrate that you’re committed to bettering your presence in meetings, you’re showing that you have a vision and you know how to share it. Embracing the tools of better meetings positions you as a leader — someone whose growth allows them to transcend their own limits, making them someone to watch and someone to follow.
“If we create people like that, man, the workplace will be a better place,” Nazario says. “And eventually…the world.”
Poly can be your secret fast-track to career success
Given its seismic impact, achieving meeting equality can seem like a stretch, especially as an individual within a changing workforce. But if you’re willing to pursue it, you’ll reap the rewards — your career is no longer limited to the confines of a cubicle when your ideas can be articulated just as well via video call. All it takes is a growth mindset of being willing to invest in the right technology to transcend.
Poly can equip you with the collaboration tools to get you there. But it’s not just about the products. At Poly, it’s our earnest desire to help give you an edge in communicating, collaborating and making your presence known. Take it from Moss, one of our own:
“I want to see how you react. I want to hear the tone of your voice. And I want to do that for everyone that’s in this session.”
 Apollo Technical. “Surprising Working from Home Productivity Statistics (2022).” Published 1.2.2022. Accessed 1.13.2021.
 Prudential. “Is This Working?” Published 2021. Accessed 12.17.2021.
 McKinsey & Company. “What executives are saying about the future of hybrid work.” Published 5.17.2021. Accessed 12.15.2021.
 The Atlantic. “What Bosses Really Think of Remote Workers.” Published 5.19.2021. Accessed 12.15.2021.
 CDW. “Improving Business Outcomes With Modern Collaboration.” Published 5.28.2021. Accessed 12.15.2021.
 Science Communication. “Good Sound, Good Research: How Audio Quality Influences Perceptions of the Research and Researcher.” Published 3.20.2018. Accessed 1.7.2021.
 Reworked. “Why Technology Can Still Create Obstacles to Remote Working.” Published 7.16.2020. Accessed 12.7.2021.