The New York Times recently proclaimed that Remote Work is Failing Young Employees (HT @bruceclarkprof) and I couldn’t agree more. In the early days you learn so much by leaning over people’s shoulders, eavesdropping, asking your seniors questions that would sound stupid if you wrote them down and generally absorbing by osmosis how to get better at your job.
I deliver a fair bit of strategic thinking and creative brief writing training to account handlers and I’ve definitely seen this with some junior members of client services teams, who haven’t accelerated as fast as their previous in-office counterparts might.
I really feel for them, not least because thinking back, I only became a Planner through in-office visibility. At university I had no idea Planning existed as a career path and went into PR at an integrated agency. PR wasn’t a perfect fit for me so I kept things interesting by sticking my head into any meeting that would have me and turning my ‘checking the daily newspapers for client clippings’ task into becoming a one-woman insight service for the agency. The agency directors spotted this and created a role for me as a junior to their new Head of Planning.
That would never have happened if I was working remotely and only visible on video calls. And once in my better-fitting role I’d have never been able to keep growing by both learning by osmosis and people and projects that needed my help seeking me out because I was there, in the office, visibly being useful.
Freelancers like me have the luxury of being given a specific task or project to sort out and unless it’s something like a fast-moving pitch, a lot of my work can be done remotely…but if I was still an agency Head of Planning (and, obviously, it was safe to do so) I’d need to be back in the office, developing my team by just being there.