Home office – The development trap

Home office has been discussed more than ever in recent months.

Employees find it insanely great to save traveling to the office. Every day, depending on the travel time, 1-2 hours of valuable free time or working time are lost. Not only that, but it’s much more productive to work at home because you’re undisturbed. No colleague disturbs, no conversation in between. Being reachable only via telephone or video telephony facilitates the separation.

The modern executives among us finally feel vindicated that “mobile working,” as home offices are often mistakenly called – after all, what’s mobile about home offices? – is the right way to go. Office space is already being calculated smaller for the future. You feel like a progressive leader when you give employees this space. Hundreds of articles with tips on how to lead virtually have been written in the meantime. As a manager, you could almost think that the competence to be able to react to new situations in dealing with people is being denied to you.

What I find completely lacking, however, is a differentiated discourse on how to deal with home offices.

Since our society focuses on training in terms of professional competence and there is virtually no basic training in schools, universities, etc. for social competence, the home office discussion is also one-sided. It is precisely the colleagues who are missing out. But that is not all that makes people social beings.

An excess of home office is detrimental to personal development

One important thought that I think falls far too short is how do I implement one of the most central leadership tasks in the home office – which is fostering personal development.

Experienced managers and leaders will now immediately think of a number of mentors, former bosses, coaches they have learned from:

  • how to meet people in leadership and in general in cooperation
  • how to lead yourself and be a role model
  • what fine nuances are important in communication with one’s environment
  • that body language says more about the person you are talking to than the many words that come out of your mouth
  • that many of the valuable feedbacks for oneself have come from the fact that bosses, mentors and perhaps even colleagues and employees have observed one’s own “doing” and have hopefully given appreciative feedback on it.

The list is much longer and none of the above can be replaced with telephone, video conferencing or virtual reality meetings. At least, I have tried it extensively over the last few months and have not found a proven method to keep the personal development of young and future leaders at the same level and speed as before the lockdown with permanent face-to-face meetings and personal contact.

This brings me to the conclusion that an “excess” of home office clearly harms personal development or at least slows it down, because the social development of people is characterized by direct contact and direct interaction. 

My 3 messages on the topic of home office

1. Differentiated use of home office

Through the content and the sharing of my personal leadership experience, I hope to contribute to making the discussion around the home office, which is so “hip” at the moment, much more differentiated and true to reality, depending on the industry, area of responsibility and responsibility in the organization. 

In analogy to nutrition, sustainable success is achieved through wise balance and not by acting in “extremes”.  

2. Holistic view of the home office discussion

All those who write studies and articles on future home office behavior without exercising a leadership function, please involve managers. The practical knowledge of methods for the (further) development of social competence, as a basis for personality development, is essential. 

3. Understanding of invisible success factors in leadership work

It is also necessary to raise awareness among the many young, ambitious people in the working world. Where there is still a lack of experience regarding the importance of the “invisible” success factors in management work for the home office discussion, education is required to gain understanding.