‘Ripple Effect’ explores hybrid work

The Wharton School’s faculty research podcast, ‘Ripple Effect,’ delves into the nature and practice of hybrid work via faculty research, and presents it as knowledge employees can use.

Every day, business scholars answer pressing questions in their research—but what do their insights mean in practice? “Ripple Effect,” the Wharton School’s faculty research podcast, explores what inspired their studies and how their findings resonate with the world today. Last month’s episodes highlight research into the evolving model of hybrid work.

A person working at home on their laptop with headphones as seen through an open window.
Image: iStock/gorodenkoff

In “Finding Balance With the Hybrid Work Model,” Matthew Bidwell, a management professor at Wharton, weighs in on the on the future of remote work and the hybrid work model, saying the last three years have been a surprisingly successful trial run.

“Yes, we’re commuting,” says Bidwell, “because that’s what we did. And we didn’t think too hard about, ‘Do I really need to be doing this every day?’ Once you’ve gone through a period where you weren’t commuting, and you were still getting your work done, suddenly that opens up as a question. Before it was taken for granted. … Now that feels like a choice.”

“I think we’re just looking at that and saying, ‘Why would I spend that time commuting?’ Now when the company says, ‘Come back into the office,’ and you’ve got an hourlong commute each way, it feels like the same, ‘We want two more hours of your time.’”

What Are the Pros and Cons of Remote Working?” features management professor Martine Haas, who advises managers on how to get the most out of a hybrid workplace, while keeping the pros and cons of remote working in mind.

“I think there are two big components that feel important because they both create power differences between people who are in the office and people who are not,” says Haas. “One is people’s access to resources, whether it’s the photocopier or support or advice from the manager or other workers. You have more of those resources if you’re in the office with other people usually than if you’re at home.”

The other is visibility. If you’re in the office, you probably have more visibility to your manager. Probably your manager is in the office, too. … Losses in visibility matter because there are bases of power in organizations. … I think managers need to start with that fundamental recognition that people are in different structural positions, and as a result, all is not equal.”

In “Are We Moving Towards a Four-day Workweek in the United States?,” management professor Iwan Barankay looks at the four-day workweek as an appealing model for workers seeking work-life balance. But in practice, he thinks it’s a problematic idea that won’t take hold.

“I think people need to think carefully about what they miss out on or what they lose when they move to a four-day workweek, or when they are moving to subcontracting,” says Barankay. “I think a four-day workweek is an intermediate step to just outsourcing and subcontracting, and not for a better workplace environment.”

For a full list of podcast episodes, visit the “Ripple Effect” website.