Wharton’s Martine Haas talks about the trade-offs women make with remote and hybrid work, and working internationally. This episode is part of a series on “Women & Leadership.”


How Hybrid and Remote Work Impact Women

Dan Loney: The workplace continues to evolve in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. One element is making the hybrid workplace fair for all involved. There’s also a focus on how much a job internationally could mean to someone’s career. It’s a pleasure to be joined by Martine Haas, who’s a professor of management and director of the Lauder Institute for Management and International Studies.

Martine, let’s start with hybrid work, because it’s probably going to be around long term. How much of hybrid work is still to be determined from where we are right now?

Martine Haas: It’s feeling pretty settled in some ways for a lot of companies, in that sense of, “We’re kind of relieved, it’s kind of working, we seem to be in decent shape.” Which is good. But it also means we need to be careful about becoming complacent, because there’s definitely aspects of it that can use continuous focus, and maybe some tweaking, and maybe some improvements. So, we shouldn’t get too settled in this.

But there’s no question it’s going to be around for a while. In many ways, it’s a good compromise between things that employees want and have wanted for a long time — more flexibility, less commuting, more autonomy — and things that companies want and need in terms of having people in the office at least some of the time. It seems to be a pretty good balance. But there are lot of issues that arise that need to be continually worked through.

Loney: The mindset of certain C-suite executives is very much anti-hybrid work or remote work, and others seems to be, “I understand it’s a component that we’re going to need.” I don’t know if that’s generational, but it is unique that you hear commentary from some executives who are very much anti-hybrid work.

Haas: It’s definitely true. They have serious concerns about it. If you’re going to need to have it because your talent wants it, and your talent has a lot of power in the labor market, then as managers you have got to figure out how to make sure that it’s going to still meet the organization’s needs. How do you put in place kinds of systems and processes that are going to help it to work smoothly for everybody?

There’s a whole set of challenges associated with that. There’s been a lot of, “Let’s just carry over what we were doing before, and hopefully it applies pretty well for hybrid work.” But it may be that we need to think much more carefully about how we design our onboarding processes, our mentoring processes, our talent development and skill-training processes, to make sure that people are really equipped and have the skills that they need.

Loney: It’s going to be interesting to see play out in the months and years ahead as to who will be working hybrid, and whether it is men or women who see this opportunity as being more applicable to their careers.

Haas: I think there are some gender differences, and we’ve seen that in some of the data. In the data I saw most recently, there’s about 10% higher demand from women for remote or hybrid work. That makes sense, as women are doing a lot of the home care and child care and need that kind of flexibility. But it’s also very much a “time of your life” kind of thing. That’s a really big deal that I think we’ve come to realize a bit more recently.

For younger people who are more junior in their careers and don’t necessarily have families, even those young people who were like, “Oh, it’s going to be great to be on a beach somewhere.” No. They’ve realized there’s a lot of value that they get from being in the workplace. If they’re not there, they’re going to miss out on some stuff they really need like those mentoring, networking kind of connections.

But then midlife, when people have families and a lot of other demands, people want more flexibility. Later in life, I suspect it probably diverges a little bit. Some people really like being in the office, some people not so much.

Loney: If you are hybrid, what potential impact might that have if you are not in the office five days a week?

Haas: I think as people’s careers evolve, there are so many good reasons why people want that flexibility — they want to be hybrid, or they want to be remote — that we should respect. They’re really important in terms of the rest of your life, and your ability to manage it manages the rest of your life.

But I think it’s really important to recognize that it does come with some disadvantages. Just be conscious of those. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, right? But it does mean that you are less visible to, possibly, your manager, who’s in the office more than you are. Maybe to everybody else on your team. They just don’t quite know if you’re there all the time or working as hard as you should be. You don’t necessarily have the access to resources that people have when they’re in the office more of the time.

It’s probably fine in the short term. But over time, that might mean you’re not quite in the loops that you need to be in with in terms of information, maybe you’re not doing your job quite as well. Or maybe you are and people just don’t see it. And maybe you don’t get that promotion as fast as you might otherwise, or you don’t get the opportunities that you might otherwise.

Again, you can make that decision for yourself, just make it consciously, that you’re making that trade-off. I think managers have to really be conscious of that, too, and try to make sure that they’re being fair and not disadvantaging people who are taking advantage of work policies that they’ve put in place.

The ‘Double Disadvantage’ for Women in the Workplace

Loney: I guess it becomes even more of a focus for women, because there are still elements of the workforce that disadvantage women compared to men.

Haas: For women, I call this a double disadvantage. We know there can be a remote work penalty for anybody who’s not in the office so much, especially when other people are in the office more. If you are a woman in a male-dominated industry or workplace, you automatically probably have a bit of a disadvantage from that. There’s a lot of research showing that in different ways. You put together the two disadvantages, and you have potential for a double disadvantage. You’re remote, and you’re maybe a little bit more marginalized in the first place, maybe a little bit less likely to be listened to when you speak, maybe a little bit less likely to be given the best opportunities or hooked up with the most senior male mentors or whatever it might be.

Over time, that double disadvantage could be a substantial disadvantage for your career. Again, women may choose to make that decision deliberately and consciously, and understand that, and still have really good reasons for doing it. But it’s important to be aware of it.

It’s also worth noting it’s not just women. It’s anybody who might be or feel marginalized in the workplace in the first place. Could be people of color. Could be people who are nondominant language speakers, non-English speakers in an English-speaking company. You can get that double disadvantage in other ways. If you’re already a little bit marginal, and then you’re not in the office as much, those things can compound. And from a career point of view, you should be aware of that.

Loney: There’s also been the conversation, as hybrid has developed, of segmenting your day. Those traditional eight hours may be spread over a 12-hour window. It makes you wonder whether people with double disadvantage feel like they have to work a longer day in order to make up for that presence of not being there.

Haas: We know that has happened. It happened to a lot of us during the pandemic. Hopefully, it’s eased up for a lot of us. But that sense of being on call the whole time is an unfortunate byproduct of relying so heavily on technology and not being in the office with clearer work hours all the time. So yeah, it’s something to look at.

But it’s also important for people who are working from home to recognize that managers don’t see them all the time during the workday. They don’t know that they’re doing their work during the workday. Trying to align their hours with the manager’s hours, in some ways, is desirable. And the managers should not take too much advantage of that and be trying to get people to work 12-hour, 15-hour days.

Loney: Does technology hopefully fill in some of those gaps in those circumstances? Being able to have a Zoom call with your co-workers. Or does it not do enough?

Haas: Technology is a double-edged sword. It’s great for a lot of these things. It wouldn’t be possible to be doing hybrid work if we didn’t have the technologies that we got used to during the pandemic. It would just not have happened in the same way, certainly not as fast in terms of being able to do Zoom calls and being online all the time and easily accessible. Technology has its disadvantages, too. You don’t get the real kind of cues that you get from being with somebody face to face. You don’t get those side conversations that you have when you’re in the workplace. It’s too easy to think of it as a perfect substitute. And we all know it isn’t. We also all know that there’s too many Zoom meetings.

Does Working Internationally Benefit Your Career?

Loney: You have also done research on potential benefits or impacts of going international, of getting a job offer some other place in the world or working for your company in another office. Take us into a deeper dive on how that is impacting the dynamic of career right now.

Haas: I’ve done a recent study with my co-authors, Matthew Bidwell, who’s a colleague of mine here at Wharton, and Isabel Fernandez-Mateo, who’s at London Business School, and Giovanna Capponi, who’s in the Netherlands. We took this big data set of MBA alums from one of the leading European business schools, who tend to be super international. We looked at their careers over time and how their international moves affect their compensation. There’s a lot of research on how international moves might affect your opportunities, but they don’t usually look at compensation. We were really interested to understand what the effects are on pay.

There’s research that says this stuff is likely to be negative. You move internationally, and you lose opportunities, you lose your local networks, it’s hard to come back, it’s hard to resettle and all that stuff. Maybe it’s bad. There’s other research that says maybe it’s good because you’re gaining all these international skills, and maybe somebody’s going to pay you more for them. We didn’t really know.

It’s a pretty comprehensive and carefully done study. What we found is that those post-MBA knowledge workers who have moved once or twice, it’s actually negatively associated with their pay in the sense that their pay doesn’t grow as fast as people who haven’t moved internationally. We were a little surprised. This is a negative effect.

What we find on top of that, which is even more surprising, is there are a set of people for whom these international moves are really beneficial. They’re people we call “superglobals.” They’re people who have moved internationally many, many times. In our study, it’s four or more times since their MBA. And those people get a substantial pay premium.

From a career point of view, I think international moves can have positive implications in all sorts of ways. From a pure pay point of view, the first couple of moves, you’re not doing them necessarily because they’re going to pay you the most. You may be doing them for other really good reasons. There are these people who move a ton, superglobals, who are at the very elite end of the international employment spectrum, and they’re making a lot of money from it.

Loney: Are those people maybe more relied upon within the corporate environment because they’ve seen more components of the company and can bring more to the table?

Haas: Yeah, I think that’s right. We did a lot of interviews trying to understand exactly who those superglobals are, what their careers look like, why that’s so valuable. It is the case that some companies really need people who have substantial international experience because of the kind of work they do. These folks have built a unique set of skills and perspectives and adaptability, and they can cope in many different environments. They can cope with a lot of different unexpected events. They’ve often demonstrated that through the way they worked internationally. On top of that, these people are rare. There’s not that many people you can find who are going to be able to run that super international division out there.

As somebody in a career where you’ve moved multiple times, you not only have the set of skills, but you’re also really rare in the workplace. You’re not going to get employed for some job that doesn’t value that. But for the jobs that do really value that, you can command a premium. And that’s what we see in this data.

Loney: Again, it probably falls back into that category of a personal decision?

Haas: That’s right. In some ways, maybe that connects back to our hybrid work conversation. It’s about being conscious of the choices that you’re making, the trade-offs you’re making. For the superglobals, those can be really good, valid trade-offs to make. Are you moving because there’s personal enrichment? You love spending time not just traveling, but spending serious time in different countries, and having different experiences, and having adventures. And you really want to learn from that. Are you moving because there are fabulous professional opportunities for growth — maybe you get to run your own division or do something that you wouldn’t have been able to do domestically? Do you really want to maximize your pay?

The chances that those things all go together, in at least in your first move or two, when you’re relatively junior in your career, are not super likely. You’re probably going to make trade-offs. Again, just recognize that that’s the trade-off that you’re making, and it’s totally valid. But don’t assume that these things are necessarily going to align and work in your favor.

As somebody who’s moved internationally, as have my co-authors in the study, most people get to a point where they’ve moved enough and want to settle at least for a substantial period of time. There are a small number of people who just love it and thrive and do extremely well, and they keep having these kinds of international opportunities that lead them to move.

It is interesting. As you’re thinking about the skills that you want to develop, and what you’re trying to get out of these different opportunities, once you’re somewhere you think is maybe the longer-term place you want to stay, you’re going to be trying to develop really local networks and understanding and language, and really settle. But if you think you’re going to keep moving, that kind of local knowledge is important. It’s probably going to be important for your longer-term jobs, too. But you’re going to need a different set of skills on top of that: adaptability and flexibility and open mindedness and global mindset. You’re going to be adding a different layer because you think you’re going to keep moving.