This is why most companies are bringing back employees to office

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In a recent interview, Cal Henderson, the co-founder and chief technology officer of Slack, discussed the potential difficulties faced by young workers in certain industries, such as finance and sales, when they lack the opportunity to learn from experienced colleagues in an office environment.

Henderson weighed in on the ongoing debate surrounding remote work, pointing out several reasons why major companies like Meta and Google are mandating a return to the office for employees a few days a week. He emphasized that certain roles and industries rely heavily on apprenticeship-style learning, where younger professionals benefit from observing and working alongside more experienced colleagues.

“The learning experience is different when you can sit next to someone, accompany them on a sales call, or witness a finance expert preparing a spreadsheet in the late hours,” Henderson explained. He highlighted the unique challenges faced by those in finance-driven organizations like Goldman Sachs, emphasizing that the absence of senior leaders in the office during critical moments can hinder the replication of such learning experiences.

While acknowledging the potential for hybrid work arrangements, Henderson suggested that it becomes harder to fully replicate these invaluable learning opportunities in such scenarios.

Salesforce, the software company that acquired Slack in 2021, has planned a return to the office at least three days a week for its employees, despite advocating flexible work policies during the pandemic. Henderson mentioned that, in his organization, interns are the most frequent in-office attendees due to it being their initial exposure to the world of work, particularly since many are residing in small apartments or shared living spaces.

Regarding workers who began their careers during the pandemic, Henderson stated that he believes they were able to adapt and learn their jobs effectively, remaining as productive as their peers.

The topic of remote work has stirred divided opinions among executives and academics. NYU professor Scott Galloway, for instance, asserted that young individuals should “never be at home” if they aspire to achieve professional success. On the other hand, Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of Tesla and SpaceX, strongly opposes remote and hybrid work, deeming it “morally wrong.”

In response to Musk’s remarks, Henderson pointed out the practical constraints faced by executives like Musk, who oversee multiple companies and are unable to be physically present at each office on a daily or even alternating basis.

Henderson concluded by stating that certain roles inherently require learning from others, and these dynamics are unlikely to change significantly in the foreseeable future. The challenges faced by younger workers in terms of learning and development may persist unless they have access to mentorship and collaboration opportunities within the office environment.

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