Navigating Work Environments: In-Office, Remote, or Hybrid?

Career Corner: A guide for developing the best work model for you

By: Liz Colodny
illustration depicting a man at work in an office wearing business casual attire, and the same man, in a facing frame, working from home in more casual attire.

Whether you are an active candidate on the job market or a hiring leader navigating the talent acquisition waters, you are undoubtedly aware of the lack of uniformity in working arrangements. “Thanks” to the pandemic and advances in technology, multiple work models have emerged: fully remote, hybrid, and in-office setups. Each of these work environments has its own set of advantages and challenges for both employers and employees.

As I know from my own experience as a Cornell career coach, and anecdotally through colleagues at peer institutions, there is no single work arrangement preference that all well-educated, ambitious graduates share. Individual preferences can vary greatly depending on one’s personal situation—for example, childcare, eldercare, and pet-care concerns, as well as home work space, can be key considerations. The nature of the job, industry norms, and company culture also have some bearing. Certain professionals prioritize the flexibility and autonomy that remote work offers while others thrive on the structure and interaction of in-office work .

Below is a list of key considerations relative to each work model to help you evaluate your own career opportunities. As you weigh your priorities, be clear on what you want; it will save you time and improve your ability to determine the best situation for you. The list may also help you articulate your rationale to a prospective employer.

As you review the possible benefits and liabilities of each model, highlight the items that are most important to you, and their weights. The goal is to take a rational, intentional look at what may serve you the best. Then use that information to align your job search to appropriate opportunities and potentially negotiate the most advantageous situation.

Traditional in-office model

Possible Benefits:

  • Structured routine with clearer boundaries
  • Relationship building, bonding, collaboration, and communication through face-to-face interactions, providing a sense of belonging
  • Separation of work and personal space
  • Networking opportunities, including with groups outside of your team
  • Easier access to potential mentors
  • Exposure to diversity and inclusion and related benefits
  • Access to office resources, including IT and other administrative support
  • Opportunity to solidify your professional image

Possible Liabilities:

  • Commute time and related expenses
  • Wardrobe expenses and anxiety
  • “Face time” monitoring
  • Inability to respond quickly to emergencies outside of the office
  • Maintaining equipment without easy access to support
  • Challenges with work/life balance

Fully remote model

Possible Benefits:

  • Minimal to zero commute and related expenses
  • Increased productivity without commute time, wardrobe prep, etc.
  • Reduced environmental impact
  • Health benefits from reduced exposure to pathogens
  • Personalized work environment with ability to switch it up (for example, no assigned space)
  • Autonomy and strategic allocation of time: can multitask work requirements with “life” requirements

Possible liabilities:

  • Environmental monotony: many enjoy a change of scenery throughout the day, whether in nature, seeing people or other stimulation not available from home
  • Working for managers who are not trained to lead virtually
  • Reduced team cohesion and relationship building
  • Potential for loneliness and poorer mental health
  • Distractions ranging from domestic interruptions to other non-work-related disturbances
  • Difficulty sustaining energy, focus and accountability without much external stimuli and support
  • Greater challenge to get training and enhance skills

Hybrid model

A hybrid model is neither fully in-office nor fully remote, but some combination of the two. It addresses some of the drawbacks of remote work while retaining its benefits, allowing for in-person interactions, fostering teamwork, relationship-building, and spontaneous idea exchanges. At the same time, it offers employees the flexibility to manage their workdays and maintain a better work-life balance. Many appreciate that combining elements of in-office and fully remote can stem the predictability and monotony of working exclusively one way or the other.

Indeed, negotiating for a particular preferred work arrangement may be possible at some organizations. Here are a few tips for negotiating your preferred work arrangement:

  1. Research company policies and industry norms.
  2. Evaluate the role and responsibilities and how best to achieve goals.
  3. Highlight your skills, accomplishments and work ethic.
  4. Emphasize flexibility and productivity.
  5. Address concerns and how you will overcome them.
  6. Negotiate holistically: Consider all relevant factors such as salary, benefits, career growth opportunities, and job responsibilities.
  7. Choose a strategic time to broach the topic of work arrangement; if you sense it could be tricky, hold off on the topic until an offer has been extended.
  8. Be open to compromise.


About the Author

Liz Colodny is senior associate director, Executive MBA and Alumni Career Development, at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.