There are obvious pros and cons to working from home. And weighing these pros and cons has turned into a contentious debate among CEOs. The divide in this debate is clear: the older generation of CEOs argue that the costs of working-from-home outweigh the benefits. Those in Generation X or Z have a preference for remote work and believe it’s here to stay. Most people believe the main focal point of the debate should come down to one fundamental idea: productivity. Are you more productive at home? Or in the office? Seasoned CEOs, however, believe it goes beyond productivity. They argue that remote workers are missing out on the intangibles that will provide them upward mobility and longevity in their careers.
Let’s start with productivity. CEOs and executives who have been in the workforce for upwards of 25 years are firm in their belief that going to the office is more “productive” than working from home. “Going to work” for them is synonymous with “going to the office”. This group cites a number of distractions from working at home: You might have kids that will need your attention, you might be tempted to have a TV show or movie on in the background of your workspace, or your wife might ask for help with tasks around the house… These seemingly small distractions add up and derail your focus from work. Also, many executives are not naive to the fact that younger workers have figured out ways to manipulate their monitoring systems (like Slack or Microsoft Teams) and “beat the system”. (Check out some anecdotes from last week’s blog for a good laugh)
On the flip-side, the younger generation feels that they are far more productive from remote work. To them, being in an office seems less productive since “you end up socializing and that stops you doing your job.” Additionally, these younger professionals value the extra time they gain by eliminating their commute both ways to the office. Working from home also provides people the ability to throw in a load of laundry in between zoom calls, or do an at home workout during a meeting with your camera off and microphone muted, or work from the beach. The sum of their argument is that if they can complete their tasks from their desk at home, then going into the office is simply a waste of time. To this, the older generation would retort that there are intangible benefits to being in an office that remote workers miss out on.
Being in the office together creates a community; it fosters teamwork and leads to the unplanned encounters that spark creativity, not to mention the personal contact needed to manage people. At a company, the traders, bankers, brokers, compliance, human resources, and other personnel share key information, engage in daily discussions, and feed off one another. This collaboration together builds a camaraderie and esprit de corps. The “synergy”, according to Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan, is diminished when its people are disconnected from one another.
In a recent interview with The Information, former AOL CEO Tim Armstrong argued that workers under 30 could be missing out on “the largest career-learning cycle” of their lives and building their network by not going into the office. Young employees need mentors, guidance and direction, especially if they’d like to advance their careers. It’s nearly impossible to simulate real life interactions via the computer, and arguably the most important thing you miss out on by working remotely is building genuine relationships with mentors and colleagues. The small interaction in the break room that young professionals deem to be a distraction might be the spark of a relationship with a colleague that will give you an incredible job opportunity at his firm a few years down the road. So is that really a waste of time? Or a distraction?
We believe some form of remote work is here to stay. Whether you work fully remotely or your company has adopted a hybrid model, as a young professional, take a moment to consider: do you really want to be sitting in your apartment for the rest of your career? If you’re given the opportunity to go into the office, take full advantage of it. Make connections. Ask questions. Build relationships. Mentor and be mentored. Network. Think long term… Or else you might be stuck working from your desk in your apartment with your $65,000 per year salary for longer than you’d like…