Originally published in the inaugural edition of Carroll Capital, the print publication of the Carroll School of Management at Boston College. Read the full issue here.
Tea Qatipi’s workday begins around 8:15 a.m. Today she’s working from her South Boston apartment so there’s no mad dash to get out the door on time—she simply brushes her teeth, makes a cup of coffee, and signs into her computer. At noon, while on a video call with a client, nearby church bells begin to ring and she rushes to hit the mute button on her computer, embarrassed by the interruption.
After hanging up, Qatipi ‘22, a risk and financial advisory analyst at Deloitte, realizes she needs input from her manager on a project and sends a quick chat message asking to hop on a Zoom call. As she waits for a reply, Qatipi’s four roommates congregate in the kitchen right outside her bedroom door. For a moment, she wishes she were out there with them—some direct human interaction would be nice—but their chatter can also be distracting. She’s planning on going into the office tomorrow, but she knows most of her co-workers won’t be joining in person.
Qatipi has what’s considered a hybrid work arrangement—an increasingly popular, flexible system combining both in-person and remote work. In fact, according to a March 2022 Gallup survey of more than 140,000 workers, 59 percent of workers (whose jobs can be done remotely) favor the hybrid model over fully remote or in-person arrangements. Still, hybrid work has caused clear tension with the common career goals of new college graduates entering the workforce.
“Young people want to use work as their primary way of meeting people and gaining career resources,” says Beth Schinoff, who has conducted studies of workplace relationships in virtual settings as a Carroll School assistant professor of Management and Organization. “People in different generations—young families, or those who have established lives in their cities—just want time back. They see so much value in telecommuting.”
Tea Qatipi ’22 found herself shellshocked by the abrupt change in lifestyle, citing the transition from “this very social college environment to being on your own.”
Meeraf Alemayehu '22, who works at EY in People Advisory Services, shares that when she’s working remotely and communicating through video calls, she finds it much harder to get to know colleagues on a personal level. Alemayehu typically goes into the office once or twice a week, but her team members usually aren’t there on the same days. A recent team dinner finally gave her a bonding opportunity. “We talked about our love lives,” she adds, laughing. “Now I feel like I know them [better].”
When workers are encouraged to select which days they’re in the office—without needing to alert their coworkers—a hybrid work environment can feel just as isolating as a fully remote one. “Research shows that when you work remotely, you tend to focus much more on work than on people,” says Schinoff. With less in-person interaction between colleagues, new grads have fewer opportunities to network with others in their industry or develop mentor/mentee relationships with managers. This could have lasting consequences for the new generation of workers, although Schinoff emphasizes that the research is lagging behind the many rapid changes in the workforce.
These challenges are only intensified by the adjustment from college life to a primarily virtual and solitary work environment. “Post grad is always going to be a transition,” says Alemayehu, “but it’s further isolating when you’re not fully in person [at work].” That’s one of the main reasons why a fully in-person role appeals to her. Likewise, Qatipi found herself shell-shocked by the abrupt change in lifestyle, citing the transition from “this very social college environment to being on your own.” She adds, tellingly, “If I knew my team was going to be there, I’d go in every day.”
While a hybrid workplace has its advantages, if networking is a fundamental priority, the better work model is clear according to Schinoff: “Always choose in-person if you want to build connections.”