Day one of my career and I’ve decided to pursue an opportunity in out of home advertising despite having no experience or knowledge of the industry. I hadn’t studied media, I’d never set foot inside a print factory or media agency, and couldn’t for the life of me tell you what CMYK stood for, or tell the difference between a 6 sheet or 48 sheet poster. I arrived at the office and was shown to my desk by my new boss. I then stared blankly at my monitor, not a single clue what I was doing.
If I think back to that time and how I learned to pick up the role, it was partly down to formal training but mostly by watching, listening, observing, questioning, and overhearing what went on in the office. I saw how my colleagues did things and mirrored that. I heard the words and phrases that were used and got to know what they meant. I sat in on discussions, offering zero input, but learning from them. I tried to absorb as much as I could from what was happening around me.
I’d say I gained more knowledge from the practicality of being in the office surrounded by experienced professionals than I ever did in formal training sessions.
Fast forward to today and the world of work has changed considerably. We’ve shifted from spending the majority of our time working in the office to now doing most, if not all, of our work from home. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I understand the benefits of working from home and am supportive of it.
We save on commuting to and from the office which has meant we can spend more time doing something productive, whether that be work-related or otherwise. We’re not restricted to only being able to take on job opportunities that are within commuting distance. We avoid distractions that being in an office environment can bring.
With all of the benefits that remote work offers, why should we bother going back to the office at all?
The answer to that question to me is clear. What some of us gain from not being in the office, others lose out on.
So should we reframe our thinking? Instead of looking to avoid distractions in the office, should we instead see that as our way of helping colleagues, sharing advice, passing on our knowledge, or even learning something? Just because you’re experienced, doesn’t mean there isn’t always something new to learn.
Are those distractions actually general office chit-chat where colleagues get to know one another? Should we see that as culture-building and a way of improving relationships within a team and across the business? For juniors, would that not improve their communication skills and confidence? The commute isn’t something we can change, but a few days in the office each week still means there are a couple of days where you can avoid it. And whilst offices have generally remained open for those who want to go in, that’s exactly it, it’s those who want to go in.
The real benefits of office work come in the form of team collaboration rather than the building you’re in.
If you’re sitting in the office by yourself because your colleagues decided to stay home that day you may as well have done the same. I think it would be a negative to go back to our pre-COVID routine of 9-5 in the office 5 days per week. But I do see huge value in having everyone back together on certain days.
The ones who will fail to gain from the shift to remote working will not be those with years of experience and knowledge.
They will quite comfortably get on with their day, interacting with colleagues during scheduled meetings but otherwise getting busy with their usual work. Working remotely and not witnessing what their colleagues are doing will have little to no impact on their day. After all, they have built up the necessary experience to deal with the tasks assigned to them.
But what about our juniors?
Will the scheduled meetings and formal training be enough to get them to where they need to be? Will the remainder of their day spent at home alone with no colleagues to interact with, listen to, and learn from be in the best interests of their development? Or will they miss out on learning opportunities that may only have been afforded to them had they been in the office, spending time in person with their experienced colleagues and managers?
Food for thought…