Embracing the Remote Work Revolution: Debunking Myths

By Ro Parahoo | September 12, 2023

Over the weekend, a US-based columnist for the Globe and Mail shared his thoughts around remote work - calling upon employers to demand back-to-work mandates. Titled “Dear entitled white-collar workers; Time to grow up and return to the office”, the opinion piece fails to consider the various factors at play which could have been clarified with research and education. WCM is committed to addressing the many unfounded myths that prevail on this subject.

The article addresses three main points:

1. White collar workers are returning to offices amid varying attendance mandates, with many expressing a supposed sense of entitlement, sparking a power struggle with company leaders.

2. Some CEOs and companies have taken a hard-line stance on in-office policies, mandating attendance to purportedly prioritize company performances over employee preferences.

3. The debate revolves around the value of collaboration,culture and creativity in the office, versus the productivity and work-life balance benefits of remote work. The supposed entitled attitude of white collar workers and “soft - even cowardly -” corporate policies have complicated the issue.

First, let us reinstate our stance on this subject: WCM advocates for equity in the financial sector and a remote-first policy has been at the forefront of our mission and values as an organization.

The author’s assumptions about entitlement and power struggle with leadership is perplexing. Perhaps it’s not about entitlement but about recognizing that there isn’t just one way to be productive, and that the environment in which one can be most productive should be an individual choice so the best job performance can be delivered. As for the power struggle, it’s not about who is in charge, it is about creating an environment where everyone thrives. Surely, good leaders want their employees to thrive.

Much of the conversation about returning to work paints the office as a magical place where creativity and productivity bloom, regardless of any other factors. We know that this can't be further from the truth. WCM's research reveals a significant divide in preferences. Straight white men tend to favor returning to the office more than women, 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals, and racialized people. This discrepancy is unsurprising given that 33% of women, 32% of racialized respondents, and a staggering 58% of 2SLGBTQIA+ respondents report experiencing workplace discrimination based on their identity.

Unlike the assumptions that the author has made, remote work is not devoid of culture. It simply means that watercooler conversations have been traded in for Zoom calls or Google chat messages. It is perhaps time that we stop labeling the pursuit of work-life balance as entitlement and start applauding it as a step towards happier and more productive employees.

As for these “soft” corporate policies, maybe it’s also time to recognize that adaptability and empathy are what make good companies great, helping to attract and retain top talent. The workplace should be a space for innovation and collaboration no matter where your desk happens to be.

The conversation about returning to the office should be examined through an intersectional lens to acknowledge the complexities involved. Let’s not disregard the value and importance of work-from-home mandates and allowances, especially to those who are already marginalized and/or dealing with compounding disadvantages: women, gender-diverse individuals, 2SLGBTQIA+ folks, black, Indigenous and people of colour, people with disabilities, care givers, those who need accommodations, and so many more professionals who face a wide-array of microaggressions and challenges on a daily basis.

When it comes to the return to office debate there’s no doubt that a one-size-fits-all approach is bound to fail. We need to embrace flexibility and the freedom that remote work offers, while also nurturing a culture of productivity and connection.

Yes, we can have our virtual cake and eat it too.

It’s not about entitlement; it’s about progress. Change can be uncomfortable and remote work policies will help dictate which companies are true innovators and leaders in their industry, and which companies would rather adhere to outdated policies because “that’s how we’ve always done it”.

What is your reaction to the fact that the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women will be chaired by a man?