November 5, 2010 1:00 pm

Something for the weekend

The next time you consider working from home and cutting out commuting time, bear in mind that it may have a detrimental impact on your career.

Research into passive face time - when you are seen working at your desk by your boss, although there is no interaction between you - has shown that presenteeism counts. Bosses are more likely to think favourably of those employees they can see.

The research “How passive face time affects perceptions of employees: Evidence of spontaneous trait inference”, examined for the first time the effect that seeing their employees around the office has on managers.

“Merely being seen - often from a distance and without any interaction or real understanding of what a person is doing - that in itself has value,” says Kimberly Elsbach, professor of management at the University of California Davis Graduate School of Management, who wrote the paper with Jeffrey Sherman, professor of psychology at Davis and Dan Cable, professor of organisational behaviour at Kenan-Flagler Business School, at the University of North Carolina.

Face time has a “direct and sometimes unconscious effect on how managers view employees,” say the authors. Those employees who work outside the office or who have flexible hours and therefore reduced face time with their managers are consequently at a disadvantage. The writers suggest that such workers should ensure that when they are in the office they should seek as much face time as possible with their managers and should document their achievements as a written record.

The research was published in a recent Human Relations journal.

However, for The Millennial Generation, the group of young people aged between 15-30, such concerns may be the least of their worries.

According to management professor Matthew Bidwell at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, this group face a difficult professional future.

Generation Y as they are sometimes called he says, will be beginning their professional careers - if they can find a job - in a very difficult market and could be set back for years to come.

Those groups who enter the workforce during a downturn suffer in terms of salaries and benefits. It takes them longer to enter the jobs market which in turn means they do not acquire the professional skills they need as rapidly, he says. And even when the economy improves they remain at a disadvantage because they have to learn skills they should already have and so do not climb the professional ladder as quickly.

“If you don’t get a decent job in your first five years in the workforce, do you ever? You don’t develop the stable work habits or the self-esteem to move up the corporate ladder. It’s a horrendous waste of human capital,” adds Prof Bidwell.

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