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Opinion: Create shareholder value in the office, not your home

Looking at you, young workers.
Image by Ava Weinreis
The debate around remote work isn’t going anywhere. Here’s what you should do.

In only a few years, Gen Z has already begun to leave its mark on the enthralling and surely fulfilling world of corporate America. 

Labeled “The workers who want it all” and “Generation Work-From-Home” by BBC and The Atlantic, Gen Z has been at the forefront of campaigning for a more hybridized style of work, allowing them more time in the comfort of their homes instead of a cubicle. 

For them, workplace flexibility is no longer a perk. It is a requirement — much to the chagrin of corporate higher-ups and experienced professors nationwide. 

Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon has referred to working from home as an aberration. Elon Musk called it “morally wrong” for people to work from home while service workers have to show up. During a pre-recorded internal company Q&A, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy told employees that staying remote “probably wouldn’t work out well for them.”  

In his 2021 book “The Future of the Office,” Peter Cappelli, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, said remote work diminishes a young professional’s commitment to their organization and career advancement opportunities. 

Speaking at a Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit, Scott Galloway, a marketing professor at NYU Stern School of Business, said “You should never be at home. That’s what I tell young people. Home is for seven hours of sleep and that’s it. The amount of time you spend at home is inversely correlated to your success professionally.”

Unsurprisingly, Galloway, like the rest of these individuals, had Gen Z up in arms with his statement. But that did not stop him from doubling down, saying young people should go outside, meet people and “risk awkwardness, embarrassment and rejection.” 

Some feel our crusade to rewrite the rhetoric around working from home will represent a turning point in workplace culture. 

In a 2019 New York Times article titled “Young People Are Going To Save Us All From Office Life,” Ana Recio, the executive vice president of global recruiting at Salesforce, argued Gen Z’s demands for flexible work environments will revolutionize the job market entirely.  

Like Recio, many young people tend to think we can “change the system” or “escape the matrix” and bypass the burnout, unhappiness and endless striving that encapsulate office life. 

We hear TikTok success stories and advice dumps from people who started businesses or handled two side hustles while working from home. 

But before you write off office life, consider your personal goals.

Do you want to build a career for yourself? Do you want to have money? Options? Do you want to achieve personal fulfillment?

Corporate jobs can provide you with a lot of these things. Personal fulfillment is another conversation, but those people have probably sacrificed some of their preferences to get where they are. 

By sacrifices, I do not mean skipping family or social outings. 

Instead, sacrifice your innate desire to avoid the cubicle and go into the office as much as possible. 

Building strong relationships with coworkers and accelerating your career directly correlate with spending more time in the office. 

There will likely be times when your team has a deadline approaching, everyone is forced to work weekends and is understandably miserable. 

Citing his experiences consulting different working environments, Adib Birkland, a senior lecturer at the Carlson School of Management, said he has witnessed workplaces bond through difficult times by working side-by-side.

“There is something about going through a difficult experience with others. It actually changes how you feel about that bad experience,” Birkland said. 

Regarding career advancement, researchers at the Stanford School of Business found that remote employees often struggle to receive promotions due to underdeveloped relationships and managerial skills, a lack of opportunities to demonstrate those skills and a lack of face-to-face connection between promoters and remote employees. 

An often overlooked variable in this conversation is the mental impact of working from home. 

Gen Z loves to talk about prioritizing mental health and often cites remote work as a way to protect it, but the evidence paints a different picture. In the UK, 80% of workers feel working from home has damaged their mental health. In the U.S., we are in the midst of a loneliness epidemic

It is as if many have forgotten that we are inherently social animals.

Being in the office contributes to our need for belonging and connection. As Scott Galloway said, it exposes us to embarrassment, rejection and awkwardness, which are crucial for personal and professional development.

Sitting in a tiny at-home office, you rob yourself of those little social interactions — catching up at the coffee pot, lunch table banter or working on a difficult project together —  which can improve your well-being. Zoom and in-person conversations are two very different things. 

Office culture can provide you with more exposure to mentorship, conversation topics beyond work, exposure to ideas and the ability to learn simply by overhearing other conversations. 

Is work from home an aberration, as Solomon suggested? No. It can work well for plenty of people, depending on their job. 

Calli Filippini, who has more than a decade of experience in the marketing world, advocated for the benefits of a more hybridized work environment.

“Working from home actually gave me a lot more capability to be able to hop from meeting to meeting,” Filippini said. “It’s like we’re readily available at all times, and it’s all at our fingertips. What makes it worthwhile for me is having the flexibility to be able to, on a Friday, go pick my kids up at school. To be here one day a week when they get off the bus.” 

Plenty of workers can benefit from workplace flexibility. 

But when you are young, without your family and launching your career off the ground, why not immerse yourself in your work and try to learn as much as possible?

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled a source’s name. Their name is Calli Filippini.

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  • no
    Apr 17, 2024 at 9:51 am

    This is a deeply irresponsible position. Shareholders are literal predators who intentionally profit off the labor of everyone else. You telling younger workers to put shareholder interests over their own well-being is a form of gaslighting. You know better. Don’t keep the lie going. Of course, if you personally just really love the taste of boot leather, you do you, but don’t try tell others your sycophantic pandering to the worst of our society (David Solomon, Elon Music, Andy Sassy, Peter Cappelii, Scott Galloway, et al) promotes mental health and bonding with others. Young people who don’t want to immerse themselves in their work are not learning less or contributing less, they know what you don’t: shareholders don’t care about your mental health or your happiness, they care about profit, period.

  • Nichele
    Apr 9, 2024 at 9:13 am

    The thought you cannot build strong relationships with a remote-first office structure speaks to the laziness of managers and up a corporate chain along with the inability to think outside of the box on how to approach a remote first community. I work in a remote-first structure, my manager and I have quality meetings, my coworkers and I went through the slog of a new system implementations that were incredibly difficult and trying leading to long hours for a a few months. The positive to this is that we weren’t in a cubicle, uncomfortable with the standard supplied cube furniture that are likely not ergonomically correct for most for those types of hours, we’re in our homes, we could work comfortably and also at hours that best suited out productivity but we’re still able to commiserate over the Sisyphus like situation we’re in. I work best between 4am to 8am, guess when most business structures requiring in-person work are not set-up for that let alone the safety aspect of office spaces at that time. Yet, I’m still present for my afternoon meetings. All in all my employer is getting more work out of me with me working from home, while also not being lazy about development those relationships.