More than half of young employees in the U.K. say working from home during the pandemic has taken a toll on their office conversation skills, potentially harming their career progression and pay.

That’s according to a survey by LinkedIn, which also found that 84 per cent felt “out of practice” when it came to office life, including speaking to clients and delivering presentations. 

The British workforce’s newest recruits have suffered the most from missing out on networking opportunities and the chance to learn by “osmosis” by working physically alongside colleagues, said Janine Chamberlin, the networking website’s U.K. country manager. The survey questioned more than 1,000 people, including 250 aged 16 to 34.

Of 250 U.K. executives also polled by LinkedIn, nine in 10 agreed that young people’s professional development had been stunted, and 55 per cent were planning to boost budgets for social events to help young staff compensate for lost time. 

Such investment is necessary because “office-based skills developed through conversations with colleagues could lead to bigger things like promotions and pay rises,” Chamberlin added.

It’s all part of a charm offensive to lure workers back to the office. McKinsey & Co. has said that not only do cubicle farms need to be eradicated, but “offices must be places of magic.” Other firms such as PwC are offering staff cash bonuses that it suggests they may use to refresh their office wardrobe or buy a bike for commuting.

“The loss of office small talk, while seemingly insignificant at first, could have a detrimental longer-term impact on career development,” said Anjula Mutanda, a London-based workplace psychologist. “Younger people especially haven’t had time to build up office conversation skills, and many may have started jobs in lockdown without ever meeting their colleagues in real life which makes it very hard to connect on a more personal level.”