To Get Ahead at Work, Be at Work

Sunday’s New York Times weighed in on the discussion of working remote versus on –site, specifically for Millennials. Journalist Noam Scheiber wrote an article entitled, To Get Ahead at Work, It Helps to Actually Be at Work. Although the article honed in on a law firm in Chicago, it could have been about any profession in just about any city in America.

Many people will comment on their greater productivity while working remote. Productivity is ONE measure of effectiveness. ONE. It’s not the only measure for any employee. Creating and developing relationships is another measure of the value of any team member. This article points out the challenges of younger members developing relationships while working remote.

One of the lessons I garnered from the in-depth article that I read like three times, was that being in-person is more important for younger members than senior members. It became clear that the more tenure and experience a lawyer had, the less urgent it was for the lawyer to be in the office. The challenge I see with this is that younger associates look to and model the behavior of partners and shareholders.

For the middle ranks, the calculus tilted more in favor of office time. A fifth year associate working remote said, “I don’t know if anyone knows I work here”.

Partners and senior associates seem to regard personal interaction as a luxury good. For younger associates it may be the meat and potatoes not the dessert.

A central question becomes, how does one get assignments from senior associates and colleagues? It turns out that there is no more reliable way than, well, showing up. “People give work to people they think of. If they’re seeing you every day, they think of you” added a senior associate.

In person one can exploit the tiniest opening in a co-worker’s schedule. “If I had a call in two minutes, if she were to call me rather than walk into my office two minutes before a call, I probably wouldn’t have answered” explained a senior associate.

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