There have been calls by many companies, particularly in financial services, for people to return to the office, but there are reports that many employees have resisted. Even though remote working came about because of the pandemic and was considered a stop-gap measure, many have become accustomed to it. In fact, many now see it as their “right”.
However, for those who are ambitious, this is the time to tidy up your wardrobe and get yourself into the office. The sooner you do so, the better. With fewer of your peers in the office, this is a fantastic opportunity to get face time with your boss or your boss’ boss. I can assure you that you will be noticed; they will remember your name. It’s much easier to make an impression on people in a face-to-face setting than to be a person in a tiny little window on a Zoom call. You can be there when an upcoming project is being considered and you can raise your hand, even before the discussion comes up on a Zoom call.
To drive home how important it is to employers that staff return to work, consider that a recent article in Fortune.com that states that of 3,500 managers surveyed, 77% said they’d be willing to implement “severe consequences” - including firing workers or cutting pay and benefits - on those who refuse to return to the office. Why do they feel this way? It’s because they know how important the physical presence of employees is to collaboration and cooperation.
One of the leading factors of success has always been to “show up”. This used to mean being fully engaged at work, doing more than what was expected, and a willingness to take on something extra. Today, however, to “show up” means to physically show up. Be present.
It has always been true that relationships are important to success, sometimes as much as talent. However, I’d argue that today, relationships might even surpass talent as a path to success. No matter what anyone says, relationships cannot be engendered on Zoom calls, even Zoom “office cocktails”. Nobody wants to attend and if you look closely, many of your colleagues are surreptitiously scrolling on their phones.
Take advantage of the fact that most offices are still not fully back in the office. You’ll stand out. Go out with colleagues for lunch, a coffee, or a drink after work. Those people sitting at home in their sweatpants won’t be among them.
Let’s face it, rolling out of bed and working in sweatpants eliminates the hassle and expenses of commuting, a work wardrobe and expensive lunches. It takes more effort to show up. But, if you are one of those who opts to continue to work from home, go ahead but you will be damaging your career prospects. There is truth to the saying, “Out of sight, out of mind”. When promotions are being discussed, the names that come up will be those who have shown up and developed relationships.
Christine Houston is founder and managing director of human capital consultancy, Executive Strategies Group International.
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