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Where We Work Matters: 10 Women Weigh in on WFH, Office Culture, and the Future of Work

Whether at home, in the office, or a mix of both, we’re all just trying to work it out.

By Emma Steinbergs

How many days a week should I go into the office? As long as productivity doesn’t suffer, what is the point of an in-person presence? Is Zoom dulling my interpersonal skills? Will my career suffer from decreased face time with colleagues?

Nearly three years after the concept of working from home came into mainstream consciousness, these questions remain more-or-less unanswered. Anxieties around the topic of in-office requirements pop up everywhere from conversations at the dinner table to media think pieces.

While we’d love to provide you with some easily digestible advice on the matter, the truth is that none of us know how—or if—working from home will affect our careers in the long run. And even if we could see into the future, there’s no one-size-fits all solution. Workplace dynamics vary greatly depending on your industry, employer, and team.

This lack of answers is all the more reason to open the floor for discussion. To get a broader picture of how professional women out there are thinking about the issue, we turned to you. Below, you’ll find some very insightful food for thought from 10 working women—all of whom happen to be M.M. customers.

Note: For the sake of honest, open insights, we kept all quotes anonymous.

1. It’s Complicated

Product Director in health tech

“I have mixed feelings about this and see it as a complicated, nuanced situation. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Given my workplace culture, I don’t need to go in [to the office] daily. I also need a few weekly work-from-home days for elder care, uninterrupted thinking, errands, etc. Meanwhile, my team prefers working from home 100% of the time, because they’ve moved out of the Bay Area, want to avoid the long commute, are very introverted, have critical family care needs, and/or take care of young children. I understand where they’re coming from, so we decided to go remote. We hit our targets, because we’d already benefited from working in person for three years. We’ve built trust, open and transparent lines of communication, and a shared focus. We have each others’ backs.

Still, while many people have proven that they can get stuff done while working 100% remotely, there are trade-offs. I have benefitted, yet also feel burdened and held back, by going fully remote. In exchange for flexibility, I am challenged with networking in a large enterprise company to find new opportunities and strengthen my brand. As a people leader, it is more challenging to complete projects when people are MIA. This is a whole other discussion, but for the newly minted college grads who grew up on their mobile devices: How do they learn how to navigate the corporate world? How do they learn how to collaborate with others?”

2. Remote ≠ IRL

Senior federal employee

“I work with a group of leaders who were pulled along by mentors and don’t know how to translate that to the virtual world. Virtual work seems to be highly successful when you’re continuing to work with people you’d gotten to know in person, but in my experience, it proves to be a challenge when trying to build a new relationship from the ground up. I did manage to successfully recruit and train a new employee during the pandemic. She’s integrated into our group amazingly, but I still wonder: Can I repeat that the next time with another ‘stranger’?”

3. Frustrated By Favoritism

Associate Director of Research in STEM

“I’m pretty disappointed in what’s happening in my sphere. Extroverted leaders prefer to have people on site and don’t acknowledge how we introverts also kicked ass during the pandemic. My most important pre-pandemic meetings were with collaborators across the country to begin with, so it’s confusing and frustrating to see people look down on remote work now—when it’s always been a necessity in our organization.”

4. A Flexible Founder

Founder and PhD student

“My company has been fully remote since I founded it in 2001, so working from home has been my norm. While much can be done remotely, seeing people in person also reaps huge benefits. Why? For me, it comes down to two things: culture and trust. If you already know and trust your colleagues, working remotely and keeping your team cohesive is easier. If you’re trying to build relationships and trust with new team members or ones you didn’t trust before, that’s harder to build in an online format. I’ve had really effective collaborations remotely with people, but I knew them already. Even now, with a totally remote team, we get together at least once a year in person, and several of us connect in person periodically. To communicate our company culture and build our team’s trust, we meet in person. But to maintain and continue the work, we can do that online.”

5. Progress Is Important

Marketing leader at a nonprofit

“What worries me, as an ‘elder Millennial,’ is seeing some Gen X and Boomers wholly dismissing the benefits and use cases for remote work—painting it and workers who choose it with a broad brush as inferior, lazy, and uncommitted. I especially worry when I hear senior women say that folks who choose to work from home are essentially opting out of opportunities to advance. I am afraid we will recreate the inequities we’ve spent so long saying we want to fix.

I think it’s important to have the self-awareness and courage to be able to say, ‘I prefer to work in person, partially because it is more comfortable and easier for me. At the same time, I care enough about my team and the future of this organization to put in the effort to understand why others want or need to work remotely.’ Obviously, this sentiment works in reverse, too. But at present, I’m seeing folks with more structural and institutional power generally preferring in-person work and imposing that preference on others, whether explicitly or implicitly. It’s important to ask ourselves why and how we can flex to include others with different perspectives, needs, and experiences.”

6. Managing a Mixed Bag


“I’ve seen it ALL. Employee working two jobs. Two other employees going MIA. Eventually, both quit. Apparently, asking them to actually join the meetings they accepted and deliver [work] on time made me too demanding. On the other hand, I have team members who traveled all over, took care of family, took full advantage of working from home, but never missed a meeting, deliverable, or deadline. It’s hard. Our CEO wants our leadership team back in the office, but we’ve outgrown the office, and our team is all over North America. For now, we are starting a six-week rotation. Every six weeks, our leadership team will meet in the office for 3-4 days. Those who don’t live in the area will fly in. We’ll see.”

7. The Best of Both Worlds

Strategic Advisor in the finance industry

“I started a new role at a new company mid-pandemic. It’s a lot harder to build a connection and network over Zoom, but I love the flexibility of a hybrid schedule. Lately, I want to go into the office more in order to connect more (and dress up!), but I’m also at a point in my life where I can swing that. Five years ago? No way. Flexibility of location and mindset are key.”

8. A Privileged Position

Associate Director of Research in education

“I can see both sides of this issue. I appreciate the flexibility and time savings of working from home but feel that there are setbacks, especially for women who are mothers. Of course, it depends a lot on your work, too. I am especially concerned about increased disconnection and disparities between those in positions who cannot work from home (e.g. manufacturing and service jobs) and those who can (often white collar positions).”

9. Not Exactly What I Signed Up For


“It’s such an interesting issue and so hard to solve, especially across different career paths. Because everyone has different ideas about what makes an optimal, or even viable, workplace—and the old ways have experienced an overhaul, it’s hard to know where to even begin the conversation. There are so many variables to consider.

In my workplace, it’s pretty much a free-for-all. Some people come in every day; others, never. We have a fully hybrid office now, as we’ve downsized from the enormous space we used to occupy. Some of us who don’t come in daily share an office and alternate days. But then, if you want to come in on a different day, you are a little bit lost. We lawyers like offices with doors! We are kind of conventional on the whole and have never had communal work spaces, like my husband and his colleagues in the start-up world do.

Working from home is obviously great when I want to extend my trip to wherever, but I also have this feeling like, ‘I didn’t really sign up for this.’ I like to be with people and put on a nice suit. I like to get my coffee and walk around downtown. I don’t really see the current situation as my personal future, if this is the way it’s going to be. In fact, I have considered changing careers and entering a field where I am pretty much assured personal contact for precisely that reason. But this is so personal! How do we standardize something like this?”

10. Connection Is Key

Pediatric endocrinologist

“It’s complex. In the medical field, most people obviously need to work in person, but working from home does work for some positions and processes. For instance, many patients seem perfectly happy with basic telehealth visits, and some administrative positions at my hospital are successfully working from home to this day.

On the other hand, I personally don’t like video visits, as the physical exam is very limited, and I need to measure vital signs very closely for my patients. I also worry about the people who have difficulty taking initiative when it comes to networking. I think this subset of employees is at risk of socially disconnecting and, therefore, missing out on some opportunities.

I don’t think that there is an answer, and I have always believed in flexibility and personal choice. What matters is that we stay connected with our communities and the world at large.”

Written By

Emma Steinbergs

Emma is M.M.LaFleur's Brand Manager. She previously worked as an M.M. stylist and still loves thinking through styling challenges and solutions for customers.

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