I'm a Gen Zer who chooses to work from the office 5 days a week because it's helping me get ahead faster
- Zehra Naqvi started her career as an intern in 2020, when she worked remotely from Hong Kong.
- In 2021, she returned to New York City and now works five days a week at her office.
This is an as-told-to essay based on an interview with Zehra Naqvi, a 24-year-old who works for the financial-services company Republic. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
I've worked both remotely and IRL, and prefer the in-person experience
It's not easy to start a job that's remote and half a world away.
But that's what I did in late 2020, when I began my first internship with Republic while still a student. The office was in New York, and I was living at home in Hong Kong.
A few months later, I was hired for a full-time role and moved back to New York City, where I'd gone to school until the pandemic shut down my campus. As soon as I was back in the city, I started going to the office five days a week.
When I was remote, I was just happy to have a job, but nothing compares to the efficiency and opportunity that working in person can bring.
There is a lot of talk about Gen Zers like myself fighting for flexible policies, but even though I'm not required to come in, it's been worth it for the personal and professional growth. I've had multiple promotions in three years.
My day-to-day work includes focusing on logistics, talking to founders, going through our investment team's processes, and hosting events in order to network and build community. Being in person is a crucial part of those tasks; I couldn't do my job as well working from home.
When I'm in the office, I'm surrounded by my managers and peers who also work in person, so I don't spend an unnecessary amount of time Slacking them — where the nuances of the messages either take forever to explain or get lost behind a screen. I have more opportunities to be creative, like jotting down notes with colleagues or collaborating in the office's common areas.
I get extra feedback and spontaneous opportunities because I see my managers every day
Republic is my first full-time company, so I try to be in any room where meetings are happening.
Many of my meetings come from last-minute invites from my managers. If they see me sitting in the office, they often ask if I want to hop in a meeting, go to a happy hour, or attend an event.
Those spontaneous invites have given me access to a lot of experiences. Sitting in the same room teaches me much more than a Zoom call would, because people participate a lot more. Without being scared of interrupting someone else like they might on a call, people talk much more freely, opening my eyes and ears to more conversations, questions, and problem-solving.
I also find being in person helpful for learning unspoken rules like how to dress for work or for events, or how to present myself professionally. I also pick up skills like how to approach clients and how to conduct meetings.
I get to watch more experienced employees do their jobs and learn from how they do it. And they give me feedback on things they observe while I'm working — like how I speak to founders or give presentations.
Collaboration and community is more accessible in person
Most days, instead of sitting at my desk in the quiet area of the office, I work from my laptop in our lounge area, which has couches and tables for groups to do work and has music playing. I think many Gen Z employees prefer the active areas where we feel in community with the other people talking and working.
Sometimes we work on projects together, and being in person makes it much easier to schedule time to meet or find open areas to brainstorm. I often suggest we grab a conference room, get a whiteboard, sit outside, or do something physical like going for a walk.
Other times, just sitting next to someone who's also being productive motivates me.
I think a lot of Gen Zers are looking for opportunities to connect with each other. Many of us aren't looking for community just for the sake of it, but to make lasting friendships.
A lot of us had our college lives disrupted, and starting our careers virtually made many of us feel isolated. Now some of us are taking the steps we can, like working in person, to get to experience being around people again.
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