“When you’re in the office, you can strike up a conversation more easily,” she continues. “When you do that virtually, it’s this intense one-on-one situation.” In her previous job, Annie says, she never had the chance to know her boss, a “legend” in the agency world, because everyone worked remotely.
“I only got to talk to him when we had a real meeting scheduled in the books,” Annie recalled. “It was tough. I mean, we planned some one-on-ones, but it’s not like I could hear anything funny that she said [in the hallway] and bring him or even ask him: ‘Hey, you want to have a coffee?’ “
Forcing employees back to the office will not solve this problem. But listening to them and being open to offering different incentives to managers and juniors could do it. “People do what they’re measured on, so maybe if you had a [key performance indicator] for the number of times a manager comes into the office and has lunch with his team…”, suggests Whillans. “Could they get a bonus based on how many team meetings they have in person?”
Whillans warns companies will have to maintain a ‘delicate balance’ as flexibility benefits people, whether it’s ‘people from minority groups who might not feel accepted in their organization’ or working parents who rely on flexible working policies to help them care for their children while meeting the demands of their jobs.
Young workers also likely appreciate the ability to work remotely while traveling with family or friends, or simply to avoid boring office chatter or a long commute. And now that mask mandates have been lifted in most workplaces, employees with disabilities or chronic illnesses may feel safer or more comfortable continuing to work from home. Adds Whillans, “An organization should be careful that the incentive feels like a reward as opposed to a punishment.”
For younger employees who crave community or fear they’ll miss out on growth, Whillans suggests they create opportunities for interaction, even if it’s not with people directly on their team. Could you go to the local office? Are there a few people who also come regularly who are adjacent to your team or who you could go to lunch with? Is there a separate workspace you could visit, like a WeWork space or coffee shop, that would make you feel more strongly connected to a community that isn’t necessarily your office?
It might seem scary to be the one suggesting new ideas if you’re younger, but Whillans is all about speaking up. “We often worry that asking for a change in the way our team works will have a negative impact on us,” she says. “But our managers actually see us more positively and [as more] engaged.”
If you ask your manager to meet with you and can tie it to a specific reason, like reviewing your quarter as a team or celebrating a win, that’s even better. “You might even say, ‘Hey, I’ve read research indicating that brainstorming meetings are more generative together,'” Whillans says. “‘Do you think we could try to organize so many people [as possible] who could go to a meeting that is our whiteboard session in two weeks? Could we try to do it in person and then go for lunch? »
“The more young people take initiative, the more they shouldn’t feel like it’s going to be seen as a sign of discontent or that they’re complaining,” Whillans says reassuringly. “On the contrary, their manager will think favorably of them for asking rather that it be done at the expense of their reputation. Don’t be afraid to negotiate what you want your job to look like.
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