References and reflections on how remote work and work-from-home will impact residential preferences and demand
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman says the remote work ‘experiment’ was a mistake—and ‘it’s over’ (2023-05-05): In the same week that WHO decided that Covid-19 is no longer a global health emergency, this CEO takes a stand for in-person work: "I think definitely one of the tech industry's worst mistakes in a long time was that everybody could go full remote forever, and startups didn't need to be together in person and, you know, there was going to be no loss of creativity,” he told attendees. "I would say that the experiment on that is over, and the technology is not yet good enough that people can be full remote forever, particularly on startups." He's talking about 'full remote' so hybrid work is still on the table, and secondly he's talking mostly about startups rather than established companies. Still some wiggle room for not being in person all the time. Was the optimal workplace designed in the 18th century? Of course, there are serious costs involved with maintaining an office that have to be contended with.
What Have Workers Done with the Time Freed up by Commuting Less? (2022-10-18): Interesting to see an article from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that references the American Time Use Survey (from BLS), "we find that employed individuals allocate their saved commute time toward leisure activities and sleeping, while reducing overall work hours... The rise in leisure was particularly pronounced among younger Americans, who reported spending more time at social events, eating at restaurants or bars, and exercising. Older age groups, on the other hand, tended to allocate more time to nonmarket work, such as activities related to childcare, the maintenance of the household, repairs, and meal preparation." That tracks.
The remote work revolution is already reshaping America (2022-08-19): Some good data-driven and ancedotal info in here. Remote work seems to be settling into a more mature stage with 29% of employees able to do remote work taking that option. “We found that a lot of people were more productive at home,” Mortimer said. “Perhaps it was due to the lack of time commuting, relieved stress on family obligations caused during the pandemic or even everyday distractions being limited.” Also, some of the highest rates of remote work are in the biggest urban centers, maybe because it correlates with knowledge labor.
Thailand's new visa plan aimed at wealthy digital nomads (2022-08-18): Small town North America will increasingly be competing against warm foreign beaches! If you have $1M in assets and at least $80k in annual income, you can qualify for a "Highly Skilled Professional" visa amd 17% income tax. Indonesia and Cambodia are considering similar programs.
Ask HN: How to find a small town to relocate for remote work? (2022-08-15): OP wants to get away from $1M homes and find a walkable place with amenities (restaurants, bars, schools, airport, supermarket). Comments include finding places that are not touristy to have social fabric, strong local industries, universities/college towns, good politics, safety. Also, declining places that are a reminder of what they used to be are less interesting. A supermarket might not actually be a requirement with delivery services, especially if fresh food is available from nearby farms. Also, avoid environmental nuisances like smoke, pollution, natural disasters, sea level rise. A few pointed to Nomadlist and Movemap. It is interesting to see what alternative priorities are elevated when remote work is a possibility.
WFH and commuter rail: (2022-05-22): The schedule flexibility of WFH has allowed/required folks to travel by automobile at all hours of the day in a very atomistic fashion. Decades were spent building up a national commuter railroad movement that linked suburbs to downtowns as a way of bypassing crowded highways and avoiding expensive parking. It gave downtowns access to white collar workers that were unwilling or unable to live near their offices. But that's all changed, perhaps permanently. Those office workers that were the core of the commuter rail market can now work from home and don't seem likely to return. Our current model for rail transit is not well suited serving this atomized market. The days of legions of workers filling scores of 1000-seat trains to all arrive at one destination at roughly the same time may never return.
Business insider article on Gen-Z preferring offices. (2022-07-14): Some evidence that at least some young people prefer in-person company (community, networking, mentorship, space). "According to a national work-from-home survey by economists at three universities, less than a quarter of 20-somethings who can do their jobs remotely want to do so full time. That's compared to 29% of employees in their 30s, 33% in their 40s, and 41% in their 50s and early 60s." If you require work from the office, will your employees skew younger? Are cities for the young?
Google orders California staff back to the office starting in April. (2022-03-03): Perks are restored. This move is somewhat surprising. They must have seen some missing value in having remote teams.
Spatial proximity matters: A study on collaboration. (2021-12-01): Co-located colleagues publish more together, a review of MIT publications as offices moved around, I see this as a strong indicator that propinquity and sharing physical spaces is useful. However, this study examines the impacts of spatial proximity on collaboration at MIT from 2005 to 2015, so maybe now that Zoom is a more integral part of life the impacts would be less?
Remote work offerings on Hacker News has risen to 80%, rinzewind.org (2021-10-25): Is this the start of a homesteading movement theorized in the 1980s? Are we going post-urban? Will the home be the center of society rather than the office? WFH is the new Blackberry?
Junior employees: I’ve heard some diverging stories as it relates to younger professionals and work-from-home. On one hand, there is resentment of office life’s unbecoming frictions (I went to the office for the first time. I fucking hated it. Reddit). On the other hand, the Google interview linked below discusses how new hires’ productivity is lower than previous generations because they lack in-person mentoring. So while senior engineers are more productive, junior engineers are less productive.
Zoom towns, nbbj (2021-07-28): Similar story as the CBRE report below regarding USPS address changes to areas around major cities, plus they have some analysis on what the “best” locations might be for relocation based on climate, taxes, natural beauty, and other factors.
David Radcliffe | VP Real Estate & Workplace Services at Google, Leading Voices Podcast (2021-07-19): Google is giving each of their product lines control over how they break up in-person versus remote work. Generally, there is the expectation that 2-3 days a week will be remote. In-person meetings will be at traditional office hubs, like the Google campuses, where people from the region can commute to. This means that smaller satellite offices are unlikely, and that Googlers may have more incentive to move further into the suburbs as they commute less. Google is an interesting case because they have been investing billions in their campuses on the assumption that better work gets done in person, and yet they will be providing more flexibility moving forward.
Richard Barkham | Global Chief Economist & Head of Americas Research at CBRE, Leading Voices Podcast (2021-07): Richard covers COVID-19’s impact on industrial, retail, multifamily, and office asset classes.
Winners and Losers of the Work-From-Home Revolution, The Atlantic (2021-06-21): Winners: High-income workers at highly profitable companies; Work introverts and people who enjoy (or are good at) using online communication tools; Suburban-town-center developers; the how-to-WFH economy. Losers: Entry-level workers in less established positions; Downtown landlords and businesses; Political comity (cultural divide between graduates and nongraduates); Introverts.
Pandemic population change across metro America: Accelerated migration, less immigration, fewer births and more deaths, Brookings Institute (2021-05-20): Covid-19 and demographic changes in the US, "Note that, as the pandemic year started, suburban counties saw a noticeable uptick in domestic migration consistent with the “flight from density” explanation." .. lack of immigration due to policy and the pandemic impacted both urban and suburban areas.
COVID-19 Impact on Resident Migration Patterns, CBRE (2021-04) : Communities on the receiving end of the "Zoom Boom" -- young, highly educated, affluent knowledge workers moving out of urban core areas -- have been suburban, semirural, and rural areas within a few hours drive of major cities
The future of work after COVID-19, McKinsey (2021-02-18): In-depth report that addresses who will be the most and least impacted by work-from-home opportunities, stressing potential exacerbation of inequality.