Young female professional on computer at desk in home

Insights & Resources

Is the Hybrid Workforce Costly to Young Professionals?

Young female professional on computer at desk in home

“Face-to-face communication is invaluable for progress and promotions, particularly among more junior employees.”

This is one “working in the office” benefit I shared in my Hybrid Workforce: A Way Forward blog, which compared the benefits of working from home and working in the office. But that benefit got me thinking: Is there an opportunity cost to young professionals who participate in a hybrid workplace?

Let’s break it down and consider.

Missed mentorship, growth + promotion opportunities

Only interacting face-to-face with one’s team two to three days per week could indeed stunt opportunities for a junior employee to learn directly from more senior professionals. Mentoring happens best with active collaboration, and many argue that’s most easily and effectively achieved in-person.

Also, leadership may struggle to accurately access a young professional’s growth potential without physically seeing them or their work performance on a regular basis, possibly missing that employee’s worthiness for a promotion.

Relationship building challenges

Building new relationships over Zoom is hard. While seeing faces on Zoom certainly helps coworkers better understand each other’s personalities and intonations, it’s not a replacement for the intimacy of in-person conversations.

In fact, it’s often the side conversations before or following a meeting that enable team members to get to know one another better and often lead to follow-up conversations and camaraderie. In contrast, people can easily become robotic or distracted while on Zoom.

It’s essential for young professionals to develop relationships with colleagues soon after joining a new team as we’ve seen first-hand situations where that window closed, and the new employee never found her footing in her new environment.  

The all-important soft skills

When young professionals graduate from college, many are not equipped with the soft skills necessary to be successful in their industry. Skills like teamwork, effective communication, delegation and networking are best honed in person.

This is particularly true for Gen Z young adults now entering the workforce as they are digital natives who on average spend 10 hours per day on electronics, using up to five different screens. Working in an office (and therefore able to learn from their peers) can help these newbies develop the soft skills necessary to thrive in the workplace.  

Out of sight, out of mind

Not seeing an employee daily may make it easier for leadership to view that employee as a number and not a person. Not attending in-person work functions may weaken a team or prohibit leadership from getting to know the employee more personally. Being out of sight may also cause that employee to be out of mind when promotions are discussed or conversely top of mind when downsizing is a necessity.

Impromptu magic

It may sound cliché, but no one can deny that impromptu meetings do happen and are often where the “magic” materializes. In-person collaboration drives the creativity and forward-thinking necessary to be productive and garner success in the workplace. Young professionals need to be a part of those conversations to grow and thrive early in their career.

Let’s face it—some young professionals will flourish without issue in a hybrid workplace, simply due to their own drive and work habits. Others may not fare as well because of the lack of personal interaction and mentorship.

Be intentional

Either way, it is incumbent on companies to be aware of the impact a hybrid workplace may have on young professionals and be intentional as they grow their new talent and future leaders.