Being on-site may be more valuable than you think
The Covid-19 Pandemic has warped the world of work. In some sectors, jobs are unrecognizable from what they were in 1999. Many labor analysts insist that changes to the job market were already there; the transition has taken two years instead of five- to seven. One of the biggest changes is the use of remote video technology for meetings.
Before 2020, workers thought nothing of jumping in their cars to head to work every morning, and commute home every evening. Then, in 2020, came the forced labor experiment that has been remote video technology. Since that time, organizations around the world have discovered that business productivity has been about level to that if not actually greater than before Lockdown. Many companies have decided to maintain the remote work-model, or adopt a "hybrid" structure of employment.
For instance, REI, the sportswear manufacturer, has sold off its huge headquarters complex near Seattle in favor of "satellite" offices in the suburbs. Employees can go into the satellite offices two- or three- days a week to have meetings with colleagues or work away from home. The rest of the week, they can remain at home for their job. Meanwhile, some other companies have become completely remote operations. The software maker of Evernote has completely dispensed with its physical offices. The CEO of the company has moved from high-priced Silicon Valley to the green hills of Arkansas to manage the successful company remotely. The question arises, then, is a completely remote work style right for fresh University graduates just entering the job market?
Many companies insist on new hires coming into their offices and working at their "hot desks" to show themselves physically present. This is true especially of the financial and banking sector, with JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs adapting their work environments to better suit the needs of returning staff. A return to — or start at — a physical office space is actually a good idea for young associates.
It's true that technology can certainly support a fully remote work relationship with a company. However, the business's in-person relationships and organizational structure may not integrate virtual work very well. The new hire may suffer as a result of remote work having been "bolted onto" day-to-day business practices. Further, a young person without much of a social network of friends may find herself lonely for the companionship and camaraderie that work in a physical office can offer.
There are, then, several advantages during the early stages of a career to working shoulder-to-shoulder with others.
Develop valuable contacts - It's very difficult to make initial connections with coworkers from a remote space. For one, it's difficult to know through a Zoom call who is even valuable or who may facilitate your job. The best is to rub shoulders with as many people as possible to find and create sparks that may enrich your life and that of others.
Gain unique experiences - Office environments are like laboratories in which managers mix and match people, skills, talents, and projects. It's very easy to see whether the combinations work for you or against you. Then, you can use the experience to move along with career development.
Get a "feel" for the work environment - whether you are in an office environment for one year or ten, nothing can replace the experience of feeling, smelling, seeing, and hearing where people work. If you one day choose to go completely remote with your work, you'll have an invaluable point of reference from which to gauge interactions and work with others
Get feedback in the physical world - Reviews in the remote realm are a dismal experience: communications are transactional, sometimes curt, and the lack of body language leaves junior staff feeling confused and anxious. They are also incomplete in the amount of information that can actually be conveyed, absorbed, and discussed. Making those daily (or almost daily) treks to the office will help fill in the blanks in your understanding during in-person and remote sessions.
Learn body language - Body language is not something you can learn on TV, or on a computer monitor. You have to be physically present with others to understand the subtle signals others are expressing. While voice can be considered the tip of the interpersonal communications iceberg, body language and facial expressions represent what lies below the surface of words. Often, the speakers themselves do not consciously know what their bodies are saying. Being physically present for engagements helps you gather cues you'll be able to use in work and in life.
So while it might seem to make sense to start your career as a remote worker, since the world of work is drifting that way anyway, it's better to start out in an office. Though the smell of lunchtime popcorn may be overpowering and stunt your productivity, there are more than enough reasons to make the daily commute that will benefit you for decades to come.