The Hybrid Playing Field
Illustration: James Steinberg
Uneven odds: Working from home these many months has come with a lot of ups and downs. But for many remote professionals, one thing held constant: Nearly all of their colleagues were also remote, and few had a choice. If you're someone who thrives under remote conditions, you didn't have to make excuses for it.
Now that playing field is getting shaken up all over again. Some colleagues are returning to the office five days a week. Others are testing a hybrid schedule, or opting not to go back at all.
If you’re the one leaning into flexibility, how do you make sure you’re not unintentionally leaning out of your career? And what happens if certain subsets of the workforce, like mothers, are less likely to return to the office?
Some employers say they are watching closely as to whether hybrid work creates two classes of employees—those who are there for lots of office facetime with bosses and others plugging away, often unnoticed, at home. Surveys show many bosses assume off-site employees are doing less.
Some working parents of both genders say they're aware of the career risks of staying remote. “I know the remote part isn’t going to help me, but I’m willing to sacrifice it right now,” says Jessamyn Edwards, a product designer who moved from the Bay Area to a house in rural Spring Grove, Va., and is still breastfeeding her youngest daughter.
Employers, too, face risks with how they approach remote work. JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks have taken a hard-line approach with office-reopenings, beefing up in-person staff five days a week in New York even though it might mean losing talent. Rivals including Citigroup see an opening, betting a more flexible approach will help them recruit top traders and deal makers.
As one remote-work consultant advising the banks says: “The great experiment starts…when some go back to the office full time and some don’t.”
— Vanessa Fuhrmans, deputy careers bureau chief, WSJ
From childhood puzzles to Roblox: Who hasn't fantasized about parlaying a playtime activity from youth into a livelihood as a grownup? Andrea Fletcher, a full-stack software engineer at online game platform Roblox who has also worked at Google and Apple, says her career really began with a childhood love of logic puzzles that involved math and patterns. She walked us through how she turned that into a dream career.
'Financially hobbled for life': Elite universities in recent years have awarded thousands of master’s degrees that don’t provide graduates enough early career earnings to begin paying down their federal student loans, according to a WSJ analysis. One example: Recent Columbia film program graduates who took out loans had a median debt of $181,000, yet half of the borrowers were making less than $30,000 a year.