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The Potential State of Remote Work in 2021
And a holiday hiatus announcement
I think it’s almost common knowledge that the majority of people like remote working (reminder: NOT lockdown remote work. That’s different). But in case we needed another study, here’s one focused on tech workers. The results are overwhelmingly positive. The article talks about tech workers “universally” wanting remote work, citing productivity, balance, and more.
Are we finally rebuffing the open office Google culture that has so long dominated Silicon Valley and tech hubs the world over? We already kind of knew open offices sucked, but are we finally also admitting that offices are not the only way to be innovative? After all, we are over-meeting’ed to the hilt and have been for years in the name of collaboration.
With this good also comes the bad, though. Bill Gates predicted that half of all business travel will cease to exist post-pandemic as more people realize they like working remotely (and it’s cheaper). Before this prediction even came through, there was that famous Medium post about the “trillion dollar economy” lost to COVID.
Now, I don’t mean to trivialize this. There are significant industries built upon offices and business travel. I suppose I’d say that’s a normal, demand and supply level economic argument. When people travel, they need travel-related services and goods. When they don’t, they don’t. The strict capitalist in me says that brilliant hospitality and travel labor should move to another industry where there is increasing demand. The educated concerned citizen in me knows that you can’t simply make that big of a move overnight, and I want to minimize collateral damage (especially since that “collateral damage” is human livelihoods and families).
But with all of these, I’m seeing a few ideas - ideas I’ve already presented in previous Remotely Inclined articles - coming to light.
Remote work tourism: So we lose a lot of official business travel. As a former management consultant (I interned for Oliver Wyman in New York City during college), I was on 2-3 flights a week. It was miserable. The road warriors had status competitions to see who could get first class upgrades or hotel upgrades first, but those were meant to make a ghastly scenario a little bit better. Some enjoyed the constant travel, but without fail it always begins to grate on you.
Alas, we now have hotels offering remote worker packages and countries offering remote worker visas. It begs the question of whether companies should support this nomadism. If the company had lots of travelling employees to begin with, I can’t see why they wouldn’t. This all gives rise to the Slow Nomad Movement growing in remote and freelancing circles.
Geographic mobility: One study extrapolated that as many as 20 million Americans might move due remote work. That doesn't necessarily mean totally leaving the city, though. It could simply mean taking advantage of falling rents or moving to city suburbs.
In perhaps one of my most controversial Remotely Inclined articles, I asked if remote work was a good thing for cities (hint: I actually think it is). For those wary of moving, some places are even offering a try-before-you-buy remote worker visa.
Neo offices: Here’s the thing - I don’t think offices are going away anytime soon. I truly don’t. While I know I love remote work full-time, millions of people like it occasionally but otherwise want an office environment. Those people are just as right in their feelings as I am in mine. I don’t advocate for elimination of offices.
It seems most big companies agree with me, since the prevailing long-term plans are for hybrid remote arrangements. That does leave, however, a lot of office space to be subleased. These offices could become a lot of different things - it’s anyone’s guess, really. But I know they won’t just fall apart.
As I write this final we’re approaching American Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holidays. This is also the best time I can think of to start a Remotely Inclined Holiday Hiatus (working on the “™” there). I started this newsletter in February out of passion for remote work, and I want that passion to continue but frankly, need a short break to recharge.
You can reach all 70+ Remotely Inclined articles in the archive.
I have big plans for 2021 for this amazing, 1,000-person strong community (that’s growing all the time). But in the meantime, I wish you all a wonderful holiday, whatever and however you celebrate. This year will be different than previous (I know I’ll be hole up in my 490 sq. ft. Toronto apartment instead of spending it with my family as I wish I could), but we will get through this.