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For some workers, it makes sense to go back to the office. It seems that a majority of people want to remain working remotely. If that works best for them, that’s great—and they should continue to do it. Returning to a headquarters is not for everyone, but there are solid career-enhancing reasons to go back to an office setting.
Starting Out Your Career
Starting a new job is stressful. It’s even harder when you’re doing it remotely. If you’re just beginning to build a career, working remotely may be a big obstacle to your future success.
After over a year of being at home, you most likely lost touch with some or all of your social contacts. If you remain remote, you run the risk of feeling isolated and it will be difficult to cultivate a group of like-minded people. For young adults, going to the office has positive social benefits. You will meet new people. Make friends and build a network of alliances that could help you throughout your career. There will be chances to go to lunch with co-workers, celebrate birthdays and have a beer after work.
The Benefits Of Returning To An Office
There are a host of benefits to being at the office. You can find mentors to help navigate your career. There will be serendipitous meetings in the hallways, cafeteria, elevator and bathrooms. These impromptu interactions add up over time. It makes your work life better—or at least more tolerable—by having cohorts that—together—share the same experiences.
If you are at home, there’s a risk of being out of sight and out of mind. It’s not that people and companies are cold and cruel, it’s easy to be overlooked when you’re not around. If you are in the office, people notice you.
You’ll gain maximum exposure as companies deploy hybrid models of work, in which employees will be in the office only two or three days a week. With fewer people around, it’s easier to garner attention. You should leverage this situation. Find out who are the decision makers and important people within your organization and get in front of them.
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This is a rare opportunity to make an early impression with high-powered people that could positively impact your career. Since you’re within eyesight, it’s logical that bosses will turn to you to get high-priority matters done quickly. It’s much more convenient for them compared to going back to their office, dialing into a Zoom call and hoping to catch you at home.
At home, you need to do everything yourself. You have to do your job and also be a computer technician, online video expert and be completely self-sufficient, as there’s no one to immediately turn to for advice and guidance. Your dogs and cats don’t count. There’s not an IT professional available when your laptop or phone goes haywire. There’s no one to complain and commiserate with about what’s happening at the office. Dogs understand, but they can’t help solve the problems of big clients.
Those who are in the office will catch up on what they’ve been doing over the last year. They’ll renew old relationships, forge new connections, hold in-person meetings, and after being vaccinated, go out to concerts, sporting events and restaurants.
The Survey Says…
The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), the large human resources membership organization, shared a survey of what remote employees miss about the office:
- In-person workplace conversations (cited by 61% of respondents)
- The regular and daily structure of reporting to a worksite (42%)
- Lunches and happy hours with colleagues (40%)
- Reduced interruptions by kids during the workday (37%)
Creating Close Bonds
As there will be fewer people at the office on any given day, it will feel like an exhilarating, once-in-a-generation time event. A close-knit camaraderie will develop. Those who are in the office will catch up on what they’ve been doing over the last year. They’ll renew old relationships, forge new connections, hold in-person meetings, and after being vaccinated, go out to concerts, sporting events and restaurants together. Popping into someone’s office won’t be seen as a distraction. It will be a welcome change from being alone for so long.
Management may feel that the people who choose to return to the office are more dedicated to their jobs. Some managers may feel remote workers don’t possess the same passion as the in-office staff. You can imagine how easy it will be for leadership to focus on employees who are physically around and forget about the remote workers.
Bosses may even start feeling that it’s an inconvenience for them to have to manage a large group of people who are out of the office, live in different time zones or have hybrid schedules. They’ll feel aggrieved that it’s on them to figure out where everyone is when an immediate response is needed to cope with a crisis situation. They’ll feel annoyed having to spend time tracking down telecommuters for the quick impromptu meetings that routinely arise at the office.
A Two-Class Workforce
You can easily envision a dual-class system arising amongst workers. There will be those in the room being first class and those at home being second-class corporate citizens. In-office personnel may see more promotions, raises and bonuses.
Bosses are likely to formulate false assumptions about their remote employees’ work ethic and commitment to the company. If a remote-worker arrives late or misses a virtual meeting, it could be presumed that the person is goofing off. Managers will question why employees are in the office only Tuesdays through Thursday, and operating remotely on Mondays and Fridays. They’ll feel that they are taking advantage of the system with extra-long weekends. Skeptical managers may start deploying invasive surveillance technologies on the computers of home-based employees to ensure that they are actually working.
A Recent Survey Of Remote Workers Found Some Disturbing Results
- People who worked from home were less than half as likely to be promoted.
- Telecommuters put in six hours of unpaid overtime on average per week in 2020 and homeworkers worked well into the evening.
- The sickness absence rate for at-home was 0.9% on average in 2020.
- Around 38% of remote workers didn’t receive a bonus.
- The survey sadly indicates that remote workers felt the pressure and stress to put in more hours while not reaping the rewards.
This is not meant to be a rallying cry for returning to the office. When making important career decisions, you should consider all of the options on the table. Take time to consider what is best for you. Then, have an open and honest conversation with your manager about your preferred work style that would make you happy and productive.