Ina Opperman
Business Journalist
2 minute read
5 Mar 2021
3:34 pm

Bosses and juniors find it hardest to work from home

Ina Opperman

Junior employees and leaders are the groups that suffer the most negative impact from working from home one year after life changed overnight for millions of people all over the world who suddenly had to work from home.

While working from home is attractive, many people are feeling that the hybrid model of alternating between working from home and the office is better because working from home to a certain extent induces fatigue.

While the younger generation are disproportionately impacted by remote working, they are closely followed by senior business leaders.

When more junior workers have less time in the office, they find it harder to develop relationships and learn by observing their senior colleagues, which can hamper their careers.

“Younger workers may suffer disproportionately from the absence of the anchor point of a workplace to help their social and professional development,“ says Linda Trim, director of Giant Leap, a workplace design consultancy.

Harder to manage remotely

Leaders in the workplace also report they find it easy to manage day-to-day tasks and instructions, but that the bigger picture work of fostering a shared sense of purpose and growing the business is too stilted and difficult when it is not done in person, she says.

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“Without regular face to face contact, leaders find it harder to lead and may even lose their edge in their field of expertise when they are operating in more of a vacuum. This disconnection between leaders and their teams often creates misperceptions that people are not working as hard at home as they would at the office.”

However, Trim says, they have noticed more junior workers are not finding answers as quickly and they do not ask as many questions as they would if they were physically next to their managers.

“Those in the ‘middle’, who have been at a company for long enough to know its ways, culture and expectations, find it easier to adapt to working from home in the beginning, but now they are also increasingly missing their work friends and the particular dynamism and innovation that happens when people work together. They miss the cohesion and community.”

Virtual vs physical

Trim says she also noted the challenge of effectively reading colleagues and clients through virtual communication is an under-appreciated and under-reported obstacle of working from home.

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“As social beings, we are designed to influence the thinking and behaviour of other people. We have a whole array of non-verbal behaviours that help us interpret the person in front of us. Much of this is unavailable to us in a remote working scenario. Fundamentally, face to face gives you much greater bandwidth.”

She says physically working together helps us to interpret other people, as well as how not to misinterpret them.

The future of work is all about choice, with the office as part of a wider ecosystem of physical and digital spaces where employees can work. However, Trim emphasises, the office remains at the heart of our work ecosystem because even in a post-Covid world, so many of us instinctively recognise the value of coming together to work in person.

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