Early on during the pandemic, Apple CEO Tim Cook complained that what he missed the most when people worked from home is “serendipity” – the creative ideas that sparked when people ran into each other in the office hallway, at the coffee machine, or in meetings.
People have gotten so used to working from home, that here in Hollywood and Silicon Valley as well, film studios and tech companies are still struggling with how to motivate their employees back to the office. Elon Musk has been more direct. He stated that Tesla employees should start working from the office at least 40 hours a week or “pretend to work somewhere else.”
It’s a challenge for many leaders, and particularly in larger cities like Houston, office attendance is still down almost 20% from before the pandemic. Los Angeles has dropped 21%, while New York and Boston are both down 32%.
But while we all love working from home – there’s a key reason everyone – especially younger employees – should go back to the office, and quick:
As Edward Glaeser, Chairman of Harvard’s economics department said in a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal, in-person work is vital in the early stages of a career. “This essential learning component is valuable and crucial for workers who are young. The sort of young people who don’t want to come back to the office don’t really know what they’ve missed.” They think that the experience of “working from a Starbucks is all there is, and that they’re having just as much career development as they would have if they were surrounded by mentors.”
But the article confirms they aren’t doing as well. He cites a study that finds remote workers face “a 50% reduction in their probability of being promoted.”
Read that again: Remote workers face a 50% reduction in their probability of being promoted.
I also had lunch today with a senior leader at a major tech company in California. He said that over the last year, new employees at his company who did the onboarding process in person in the office versus at home online are doing significantly better and advancing faster.
The key is being seen while mentoring and engaging with co-workers and senior leaders. Sure working from home is nice, but who’s watching your performance? I’m not talking about being micromanaged, I’m talking about learning, being mentored, sharpening your skill, and impressing the boss with the quality of your work.
Like it or not, the research confirms that getting back to the office is the best way to boost your career. Making presentations, leading meetings, randomly engaging with co-workers, discussing ideas with leaders and more, will help you rise far more quickly than working from your home office or spare bedroom.
And even Zoom meetings can’t make that happen…