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June 13, 2022

Will working from home hurt your career?

Daily Briefing
    Editor's note: This popular story from the Daily Briefing's archives was republished on Dec. 1, 2022.

    Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Callum Borchers explains why some remote and hybrid workers may want to consider returning to the office.

    Tips to make telework work for your team

    Some companies voice 'disdain' for remote work, others promote 'hybrid equity'

    The pandemic increased the prevalence of remote and 'hybrid' work. While some companies still support flexibility regarding work location, other leaders have made it clear that those who frequent the office will be rewarded.

    "If you want to be a managing partner, you're probably not going to do that working one day a week in the office, and I think people get that," said Matt Snow, chair of Forvis. Employees are still allowed to work from home most days, but there may be some trade-offs, he added.

    "Hybrid workers, beware: There can be a gap—sometimes a wide one—between what's required and what it really takes to succeed," Borchers writes.

    In recent months, "office hard-liners," such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk, have emphasized that spending "a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week" is the only way to remain with the company. Similarly, the leaders of Goldman SachsMorgan Stanley, and JPMorgan Chase have also voiced their "disdain" for remote work, Borchers adds.

    While telecommuting may be acceptable in certain roles, those in upper management "cannot lead from behind a desk or in front of a screen," JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon wrote in his annual shareholder letter.

    Meanwhile, other businesses have promised "hybrid equity," affirming that certain employees can work from home without consequences for their career advancement.

    For instance, digital marketing firm HubSpot announced plans to track promotions to ensure those who primarily work from home do not face a disadvantage, said chief people officer Katie Burke. 

    Similarly, Citigroup, which requires just three days of office work each week, claimed that those who spend only the minimum amount of time in the office will still have an "equitable opportunity to develop and advance their careers," said Sara Wechter, head of human resources.

    Remote and hybrid employees may want to consider returning to the office

    Unfortunately, while this is "a dream for many workers," career coaches and researchers who believe in-office workers are more likely to be recognized and rewarded warn that "it could be pure fantasy unless companies are vigilant," Borchers writes.

    Notably, a 2020 study of over 400 tech workers by researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Northeastern University found that while remote and non-remote workers had around the same number of promotions, remote workers' salaries grew at a slower rate. In addition, telecommuters were given fewer promotions at companies where remote work was not as common.

    "Sure, you can hit your performance targets from the kitchen table and wear out the 'raise hand' button on Zoom," Borchers writes. "But a colleague who chats up the boss when the meeting is over and goes for a drink after hours may get ahead"—a natural outcome of proximity bias.

    According to Bo Burch, founder of the executive search firm Human Capital Solutions, businesses are currently searching for leaders who can handle decentralized teams.

    And since polls suggest that individuals from historically marginalized groups are among the most likely to prefer working from home, Kathlyn Perez, a New Orleans labor lawyer who counsels companies on unconscious bias, warns that businesses with hybrid teams should try not to exacerbate longstanding inequities.

    However, Perez noted that remote workers do not belong to a legally protected class like women, minorities, and people with disabilities do. So "[t]hose who feel that infrequent office visits unfairly cost them promotions could have little recourse," Borchers writes.

    "Unfortunately, if you know that your employer values some face time, then you as an individual trying to improve your working situation and endear yourself to your boss may want to put some of that face time in," Perez added. (Borchers, Wall Street Journal, 6/9)

    Learn more: Manager's guide to leading remotely through Covid-19

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    Covid-19 has introduced unprecedented challenges for managers who may now be managing a remote team or a team adapting to ever-changing circumstances amidst the pandemic. This toolkit is for leaders who need new tools to keep their team productive, engaged, and aligned.

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