A story in the New York Times said "In a survey by the Slack think tank Future Forum a whopping 97 percent of Black respondents in the U.S. said they preferred a fully remote or hybrid workplace. Only 3 percent of Black workers surveyed said they wanted to return fully in person, compared with 21 percent of white workers." I was interested in learning more about the survey, so I followed the link, which unfortunately didn't contain any additional information except it involved "knowledge workers." However, after a little more searching I found more details here. I also found a later survey (April-May 2021; the first was late 2020) by the same group. Here, they found that 26% of white knowledge workers wanted to return to the office full-time, "compared to only" 20% of black, 22% of Hispanic, and 23% of Asian knowledge workers. So one survey showed a large racial difference, the other a small difference. They didn't remark on the discrepancy--as the quoted words show, the report on the second survey continued to treat the racial/ethnic differences as large and important. A lot of it may just be the result of the sample size--the surveys involved about 10,000 knowledge workers in six nations, which comes to about 1,500 per nation (the ethnic comparisons just involve the US). Given the ethnic distribution of workers in those jobs, that probably means no more than 100 to 150 black workers in each survey, unless they oversampled them. Taking the two surveys together it seems that among "knowledge workers," blacks are less likely to favor full-time in-person work. However, support for fully remote work is about the same among blacks and whites (15% and 17%)--it's support for the hybrid options ("prefer co-located" and "prefer remote") that's higher among blacks. That doesn't seem to fit with the interpretation in the New York Times story, which is that black workers find the in-person office experience to be unpleasant. Unfortunately, the reports on the surveys don't contain enough detail to suggest any other explanations.
In the past few days, I've seen three Times news stories (or at least not straightforward opinion pieces) about remote vs. in-person work, all of which clearly favored remote (or almost entirely remote) work, and all of which seemed rather credulous. The one I've talked about here didn't mention that Slack is "a proprietary business communication platform"--that is, they have a financial interest in remote work-- which seems like something readers should be told. Then there was one for the Upshot called "Do Chance Meetings at the Office Boost Innovation? There’s No Evidence of It," which started from the reasonable point that there's not much solid evidence that they do but moved on to suggesting that we know they don't: "Creative work can be done by leaving video chat on while working so people can share thoughts as they arise or working at the same time on a Google Doc. Also, writing down ideas and notes from conversations, so others can refer to them and weigh in." It also relies on the Slack studies, and concludes with a quotation from the "Chief People Officer" at Zillow, who says "We believe humans want to connect and collaborate. But do you need to do that five days a week, or can you do that once every three months?" And finally this one, which was intended to be humorous but has some reporting, which quotes someone assuring us that "even much vaunted water cooler conversation can — and should — be recreated virtually, by establishing a routine of setting aside a few minutes — six or seven for an hour long meeting — for informal conversation at the start of each virtual gathering." I don't know whether that's coincidence or a sign of something larger.