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The (Impossible) Work Dream

by Amy Born
Writing for The Center for Effective Philanthropy, Leading Edge Chief Research & Innovation Officer Amy Born examines the new work-life paradox, and explores tradeoffs between remote, in-person, and hybrid work options.

There is a persistent itch in the working world right now, a growing sense of deep and widely shared dissatisfaction.

Here’s the challenge: Many people want work to be both a bigger and smaller part of their lives, at the same time — and no one knows what to do about it.

Each of these desires — to grow the role of work within our lives, and to shrink it — is a beautiful vision. But they are inescapably contradictory. We cannot achieve them both at the same time. A job that is deeply meaningful will not stay neatly contained during business hours. Developing close, meaningful connections and friendships is difficult without challenging, deep work, physical proximity, tight deadlines, and occasional long hours that teams so often bond over.

This contradiction plays out in many ways, including the types of jobs people choose to pursue and their tenure with their organization, but perhaps one of the most tangible is the question of where the work gets done: Should an organization work all in-person, all remotely, or some of both (i.e., hybrid)?  This is one of the most common questions I hear, and my answer is almost always a dissatisfying “It depends.”

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