WFA—an Acronym Your Children and Grandchildren Might Regret
My oldest son is a senior in college and starting to interview for his first job. He is in civil engineering and has an awesome resume; COVID did not slow him down from very impressive internships. Thus, he feels wanted, as he is getting plenty of interviews. And many of those companies are telling him he can work from anywhere (WFA—sometimes we call it “work from home”). And what I told him is what I want you to consider telling your children and grandchildren: Don’t do it completely.
I was at a conference this past week where a presentation was made about the technological advances that will impact us by 2030. One comment the presenter made really stuck out to me. He pointed out that if a job can be done from home, then it can be done from someone’s home in another country. And technology will facilitate that to the degree that the cost savings will get a company’s attention.
Just think about that for a minute. The pendulum has swung a long way in the direction of “not going into the office.” But as with anything in life, that creates opportunities for companies to look at their expenses differently. I truly believe that we should not bring people back into the office to do the same job they can do at home; we need to bring them in for specific moments of collaboration, training, and fellowship (maybe one to three days out of a week). At the same time, my son, like many, needs to look at this as a time when being in the office is crucial to building a career.
There is no going back to 2019 when most people worked from an office. The pandemic showed us that we can work from anywhere in many aspects of our jobs and be very effective. But what is also clear to me is that being in person builds relationships differently. For people new to a career, or just new to a company, it is more important for them to be seen, to “pick up” on the unspoken culture, and to just be available when projects or issues pop up. It is in those moments that their careers propel them forward on a different trajectory than others. And sometimes, that trajectory is not seen for years or a decade, but when it is, it becomes abundantly clear that there was an inflection point years earlier.
This might not sound equal, but it is fair. One thing I speak to clients about when they are helping their children out in life is the difference between fair and equal. Being equal means that everyone is treated the same. But being fair is about helping them when they need it. For example, suppose a child has a chemical dependency problem, and you need to help pay for their treatment. At that moment, if you want to be equal, you will give your other children the same amount of money as you are giving the one for treatment. But if you want to be fair, you don’t; instead, you wait until they have something come up that they need help with versus just handing out money.
The difference between fair and equal, as I told my son, could be the difference in how his career progresses by leaps and bounds over his peers. If he is available throughout the day, he will be treated fairly but not equally (potentially unequal in a good way). For that to happen, though, he will have to
ignore the convenience of working from home and show up to put himself in a position of being in a zone of discomfort, a place where he will grow more. And, I added, embrace that zone of discomfort by leaving your desk, walking around the office, and engaging in relationships.
I eat my own cooking. I stayed out of the office for almost a year and was very effective. But now I try to be in the office four days a week. And I have found that I am bumping into all kinds of people who have helped me grow faster—whether that is a partner who suddenly remembers they have a referral for me, a vendor who happens to be stopping in, or a co-worker who just had a thought overnight. In all these cases, I can tell I have grown much quicker in the past year than the previous year at home. I will still take a day at home, though! It is nice to have some quiet time to think, especially as I write this.
My son called me back a few weeks ago and said he had a conversation with a friend who is already employed, and she told him the same thing I did. She indicated that going into the office every day leads to her being seen more and getting better opportunities. And I’ll take that—I don’t need to be smart as long as he has a friend who tells him the same thing! Be a resource to your children and grandchildren and share the same message. It might take 10 years, but they will thank you.
If you have questions or would like to learn more, contact Jon Meyer, CFP®at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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