The Carsey Perspectives series presents new ways of looking at issues affecting our society and the world. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsors or publisher.
Working from home, once a rare feature of office culture, became common during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as infections fall and rise it seems likely to persist and even become standard procedure. But in the top-down American office, where facetime with your manager or the chief can make the difference between thriving or languishing, can working from home work against you? And if so, are Black professionals, who already experience discrimination in pay and promotion in the American workplace, at special risk?
A 2015 study of a Chinese call center sheds light on the first question. Those working from home experienced a 13 percent increase in performance. Yet the promotion rate conditional on this performance fell. “One story that is consistent with this,” the authors write, “is that home-based employees are ‘out of sight, out of mind.’” 1
To gain insight into the second question, we surveyed members of a Black professional staff organization and networking group based in the Greater Washington Metropolitan area. 2 Our purpose was to obtain their perspectives on working from home and the impact that the death of the office could have on Black professionals’ advancement.