“I’ve heard AAPI women raise concerns about their physical safety when walking outside,” said Dr. Pham, referring to the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community, “and more leaders need to take this into account as personal work requires the commute.”
Business leaders should familiarize themselves with the unique challenges facing women of color before developing guidelines for returning to the office, said Dr. McCluney and Dr. Roberts. Or at least they should be ready to address them when employees return.
For their part, millions of companies are wrestling with what “back to work” should look like. Current models range from fully personal to hybrid to full remote control. This month, Amazon announced that it expects office workers to return to the office at least three days a week starting Labor Day. Apple made a similar announcement, but faced immediate opposition from employees. Ford and Twitter, on the other hand, announced plans to keep their workers out indefinitely.
Unsurprisingly, it has become a controversial topic. Many executives – including executives at Netflix, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan – say corporate cultures thrive when people are in offices together. But many workers see it differently: Around 63 percent of 20,750 respondents said that they value working from home two or three days a week just as much as a pay rise, José Maria Barrero, co-author of Survey on working arrangements and attitudes said in an email.
The virtual environment is more balanced in many ways, said Dr. Pham, who identifies as a Vietnamese-born American. A few years ago she was criticized for hanging decorative paper lanterns over her desk. “I heard secondhand that these lanterns annoyed some colleagues because they felt unprofessional,” she said.
Now she proudly shows her in her home office, where everyone can see her in a virtual meeting. Also, “I’m a short person at six feet, which means that I have to work extra hard in physical spaces to literally be seen,” she said.
She added, “I’m safer in virtual spaces because we’re all the same size. I spend almost no time worrying about what to wear or make up, and I usually don’t use a virtual background in video conferencing. I feel more authentic when I present my true background to others. “