At the beginning of Covid, individuals and organisations scrambled to put in place arrangements for working from home. Technology, space, noise, safety and communication rhythms were all issues. Now, three years later, we are trying to work out how we can manage going back to work.
Most people don’t change until there is a ‘burning platform’ and as we are pressured to return to work, especially in winter, the natural desire is often to remain at home rather than go in to work.
As a talented and ambitious employee, the relationship you have with an organisation is similar in many ways to the relationships you might have with friends, family or loved ones. Great working relationships, like great personal relationships, have a number of things in common, including:
- aligned goals and clear expectations
- open and honest communication
- passion and commitment
- trust and mutual respect
- a sense of belonging, being cared for and being valued.
As we share our reasons for why we believe working from home is bad for your career, I want you to consider and compare how you would build a sustainable, meaningful and long-term romantic relationship if that relationship was built remotely.
Why we believe working from home is bad for your career:
- Incidental learning and conversations. In the office you have the opportunity to overhear and participate in business conversations in which you can learn information that others may deem unnecessary for you to know but that still might be helpful. You will have the opportunity to hear senior team members discuss issues, solve problems and debate. You are able to observe leaders in action to learn how you would like to lead, or perhaps what not to do.
- Presence. Remote leadership and remote meetings, unfortunately, have accelerated multitasking. Hidden behind a screen it is very easy to be distracted by your email, WhatsApp, Slack or Facebook notifications. Multitasking not only decreases productivity but impacts your ability to hear and process valuable information.
- Building connections. Building connections, relationships and trust with one another takes time and effort. The best relationships are built when there is professional respect as well as personal connection. It is very hard to find out about others and share who you are over a screen.
- Creating sponsors and networks. As you build your career, the role of networks and sponsorship becomes more important. Networks, mentors and sponsors are trusted colleagues and associates who will recommend, refer, support and coach you to build your career. If do not spend the time and effort to be known, then you will not be able to find sponsors and mentors to support you in this way.
- Learning to compromise and work with others. I want you to think about the differences between living alone and living with others. When you live alone, you can be, do, say, wear or eat anything you wish. You can be totally selfish; you can play music all night and never wash a dish. You never have to compromise. When you live with others, you need to be more aware of yourself and others. You need to consider the feelings and emotions of others and be more caring. The same occurs in work. If we work alone, we can become set in our ways and selfish in our approach to others, with a very single-minded point of view.
- Non-optimal solutions. None of us are successful on our own in the long term. The most innovative solutions often arise from passionate and talented people coming together and debating, arguing (constructively) and brainstorming ‘out of the box’ ideas. On our own we can only explore what our imagination or experience allows us to. On our own we are not challenged to think differently or to learn from other people’s experiences.
- Being touched and feeling affection (1). There is a lot of research that indicates that a lack of affection, a lack of a sense of belonging and a lack of physical touch affects confidence, self-esteem and resilience. In the workplace, of course, there is a moral and legal line when it comes to physical touch, but feelings of connection, resilience and confidence occur when we feel cared for. This can come from a hug, a pat on the back, a high five, a cheer when you have been successful or a wink, smile or thumbs up when you have done well in a presentation.
- Incidental fitness. While some of us have improved our fitness as we use our travel time to exercise, many of us have gained unneeded weight from increased eating and a lack of incidental walking. Where we used to walk to the station or from the car park to the office, to get lunch and even just to the tearoom, now we only walk to our own kitchens for another snack. One study showed that, on balance, we have gained kilograms and reduced our fitness levels during Covid. (2)
- Separating work and life. Having a clear delineation between work and the rest of our lives is critical for work–life balance. This has become harder as we work at home, when our phone is often the first thing we see in the morning and our computer is in clear sight. Having to physically move from one destination to another benefits our work–life balance and our mental health, and gives us the ability to reset.
- More fun. Even for introverts, there can often be more fun to be had when with others. Telling or hearing a joke, singing happy birthday and celebrating a big win are all more enjoyable and rewarding when in company.
Embrace the opportunity to work from the office, to reconnect with your team, to build connections, to find sponsors, to extend your knowledge and to have more fun.