Mandy Brown adeptly disentangles the idea that “in-person work is better for supporting junior staff”, making a few key points in the process:
- junior doesn’t inherently mean young (people make mid-career shifts, as an example)
- being in an office isn’t inherently collaborative or supportive: it’s a workplace’s culture and practices (regardless of if that “place” is online or an office) that determines the support people get
- for some (particularly “members of minoritized groups”), office work means an increase in surveillance—an environment largely lacking in collaboration and support
The solution? Intentional support, regardless of place of work:
Hauling staff back to the office doesn’t make supporting junior staff easier or even more likely. The only way to make sure that junior staff get the support they need is to hold managers accountable for their growth. Managers should be able to speak to how their junior staff want to grow, and how they and the rest of the organization are working to support that growth. Support needs to come in the form of humane and useful feedback, access to training and opportunties to learn, abundant peer support, and committed sponsorship.
To close, Mandy shifts subject slightly, pointing out that remote work isn’t going away—for a multitude of good reasons:
Even the most diehard IRL culture will find that people won’t commute in on days when the forecast warns of flash floods, or the air quality has plummeted because of nearby wildfires, or the local energy utility is warning of brownouts after the seventh straight day of triple-digit temperatures. The most anti-remote employee isn’t going to be welcome in the office when they have a cold or when their kid just tested positive for COVID. Millions of immunocompromised people are still at risk from COVID, while millions of others are suffering from the effects of long COVID. And we’re years if not decades away from repairing our broken childcare and elder care systems, which will require that many caretakers, like it or not, will have to work from home, at least some of the time.
Given this, we need to be intentional about how we approach work, with regard to where and how it’s done. Remote work will be a thing. In-person work will be a thing. They’re different, but both need to be done intentionally to work (heh) well.