To Be or Not To Be (In the Office)

Companies are finalizing decisions about the location of work for employees. Some companies are permitting full remote work, while others are requiring a hybrid approach. The return to physical office space has met with some resistance from employees.

Why are companies requiring employees to return to a physical location? Is it because the company wants to ensure the use of its real estate? The issue is not simply about butts in seats. There’s a benefit to employees working in physical proximity. People feed off of one another. When I was in the office, I felt a certain energy that helped me stay focused and engaged throughout my 10 – 12-hour workdays. People on my team would also often comment about that energy. Video calls simply don’t give us the same experience.

Perhaps more importantly for people who are trying to climb the corporate ladder, being in the office allows for “casual collisions” which is my term for encountering a colleague in the hallway or the cafeteria. I recall looking out of my office one day and seeing an employee walk by. I had an open position at the time, and I said to myself, “Marcia is someone I should consider for that role.” If Marcia had not walked past my office, I would not have included her name for consideration.

Out of sight, out of mind, is a reality in the business world. When you have the opportunity to meet with people in person, you begin to develop a relationship that can’t be captured through email, text or video. For example, when meeting in person, you can turn to the individual sitting next to you before the meeting and strike up a casual conversation. It’s much harder to have a sideline conversation on a video call with five other people listening to every word.

In-person connections create deeper relationships, and those relationships help people advance their careers. Electronic communications simply don’t provide the same level of relationship building. Before you decide that you want to work fully remote, think about your long-term goal. If you want to climb the corporate ladder, make sure the ladder is located where the live action is a majority of the time.