If your company goes hybrid and you go remote, you’re getting piped

From this op-ed by the CEO of Washingtonian Media:

While remote working is certainly industry- and job-dependent, and the future employment scene will probably be some type of hybrid, the CEOs I have spoken with fear erosion of collaboration, creativity and culture. So although there might be some pains and anxiety going back into the office, the biggest benefit for workers may be simple job security. Remember something every manager knows: The hardest people to let go are the ones you know.

First funny thing: I dated the daughter of the editor of The Washingtonian for 2.5 years. She’s now married to a partner in a law firm, and they have two kids. I am typing a Medium article while wearing gym shorts and a Calgary Flames t-shirt. You decide who won.

I have two concerns about these hybrid plans. The concerns are basically cousins of each other:

  • If you work from the office more, you will get promoted more and have more responsibilities.
  • If you work from the office less, you will get fired more (quote above).

This is borne out in other places. In the same op-ed above, you have this:

While some employees might like to continue to work from home and pop in only when necessary, that presents executives with a tempting economic option the employees might not like. I estimate that about 20 percent of every office job is outside one’s core responsibilities — “extra.” It involves helping a colleague, mentoring more junior people, celebrating someone’s birthday — things that drive office culture. If the employee is rarely around to participate in those extras, management has a strong incentive to change their status to “contractor.” Instead of receiving a set salary, contractors are paid only for the work they do, either hourly or by appropriate output metrics. That would also mean not having to pay for health care, a 401(k) match and our share of FICA and Medicare taxes — benefits that in my company’s case add up roughly to an extra 15 percent of compensation. Not to mention the potential savings of reduced office space and extras such as bonuses and parking fees.

Right. I know this shit all too well. I’ve actually applied to full-time jobs, not gotten them, seen the job posted four weeks later still, and contacted the person that didn’t pick me to offer to do the work as a contractor. Because this saves them budget, a lot of times it works — all many managers care about is saving budget, because it makes them look better to their bosses. So yes, if someone is mostly working from home, there is a big incentive by the organization to shift them from W-2 to 1099. After all, if you’re sitting on your couch, why do I need to pay your health insurance? That will be the mentality.

In this good New York Times newsletter about going back to work, you also have this:

Sid Sijbrandij, the chief executive officer of GitLab, argues that the hybrid model will create a cumbersome and potentially discriminatory system of tiered communication: “Eventually, remote workers will find that they are not getting promoted at an equal rate, because they are less visible, and the productive remote employees will leave for all-remote companies that invest in their remote team members.”

I would agree with that.

So while we’re all racing to do this “hybrid” thing right now, we don’t know for sure if it will work — it could be the worst of both worlds, not the best — and a big concern might be sheer job security.


Oh, PPS: I have a friend that moved from San Francisco (at a higher salary) to Montana, and her company dropped her base salary $20,000. Obviously that’s completely legal and maybe even justified, but that’s going to be a third/fourth area to watch as this all comes into focus.

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