So many companies are pushing workers to return to offices after the pandemic shifted the remote-work landscape—even videoconferencing giant Zoom is making employees within 50 miles report to the mothership twice a week.
One aspect of remote vs. office life we haven't heard much about, though, is how much racism might be playing a part in decisions workers are making to stay on at jobs that demand hybrid or on-site work or to switch to jobs that continue to allow more flexibility.
The Los Angeles Times investigated the phenomenon, talking to several workers who said they are more comfortable keeping their jobs at a distance. One network engineer at a San Francisco hospital, for instance, said he took a $5,000 pay cut to avoid the microaggressions that came with on-site work. LeRon Barton, who is Black, told the LA Times that he had his competence questioned by other employees and got looks from patients when he came in to check WiFi signals. Barton ended up at another tech company, saying, "the quality of life has improved dramatically."
Reporter Samantha Msaunaga writes that Black workers and other employees of color said that remote work lessened racism they experience on the job and helped them avoid office politics and microaggressions. That has to be weighed against disadvantages of remote work: Less face time might mean fewer opportunities for advancement (a phenomenon called "proximity bias"). But, according to one study backed by Slack (which, of course is biased toward remote working), Black workers were much less likely to want to return to in-office work (3 percent versus 21 percent of white workers) and found remote or hybrid gave them a greater sense of belonging and boosted their ability to manage stress.
A paralegal interviewed for the story who asked not to have her name used said it's not just about race. "As a Black employee and someone who is neurodivergent, it’s just better for me,” she said. "I get so much more work done here in my own space where I’m able to be who I am and think.”