The Remote Work Shift and Debate

The conversation around remote working continues to get more interesting. The topic of remote work is now coming from all aspects of the tech industry, and the news from Twitter that all their employees have the option to work remotely forever has many believing this will be the new trend.

Many believe Twitter’s move to allow permanent remote work will set a trend that many Silicon Valley companies will follow. I tend to think this is true, to a degree, as a new perk of the job may very well be the option to work from home more or permanently. I’ve been having several conversations with friends at various tech companies around the valley and have asked if they think they will try to work from home more going forward. One constant phrase I hear from these conversations is, “now that I know I can work from home.” What this tells me are most workers who have been able to work remotely have overcome the hurdle that existed prior, which may have simply been a question as to whether they could effectively work from home. What this current situation has presented us with is enlightenment as to what is possible when it comes to remote working.

As more workers become aware of the potential for them to work from home, my guess is they will get at least one to some of the time, even if for only a day or two a week. This means that from a competitive hiring standpoint, many more companies will have to embrace the freedom for workers to work from home or risk losing quality candidates to other companies.

While I don’t think the vast majority of workers will choose to work from home remotely, I do think the option will be necessary for most companies to offer. Depending on the industry, the approximation of people who work full time from home is between 13-15%. My gut guess would be that number could go up to over 25-30% of the workforce at least working remotely some of the time and potentially growing at a rapid rate as companies adopt more work from home options.

That being said, this shift brings up even more questions once we embrace it as not just possible but also extremely likely.

A major question being one of wages. I’ve seen multiple debates on Twitter talking about a remote worker leaving they valley and moving to another state and whether they would still make silicon valley wages. My guess would be the answer is no, given the company should not have to pay the high cost of living wages in an area where the cost of living is not as high as California but, this remains an open question.

Similarly, what about the perks one gets when going into the office in terms of free Internet, often free food, access to an on-campus gym and services, etc. Where this matters to some people, likely younger workers, I imagine the lure of working remotely all the time is not as high. But the question will be one of the trade-offs. Just like there are benefits to working in an offices from perks or social standpoint, there are many benefits to working from home. To me, the most important point here, and the one I believe will emerge from this situation, is simply one of having the option. If someone wants to go to the office they can, if they want to work from home or anywhere they choose they can. The choice is up to the employee, and that is not a situation that was universal before COVID-19 came onto the scene.

Of course, there will be exceptions. There was news Apple will look to start bringing people back to the office in the fall, which is viewed as a bucking of the trend of other valley companies like Google and Facebook who have said their employees can work from home for at least the rest of 2020.

Apple is unique in its culture that it would be very hard for their employees to work from home all the time. Apple has a very collaborative culture, and they work on physical products which I also think adds an element of difficulty to do remote. That being said, I know Apple employees have much demanded of them. I have many friends who work there who have told me work/life balance is hard working for Apple, which leads me to the conviction that Apple should offer employees the chance to work from home at least now and then if not once a week if possible. This goes back to my point of options, that the choice of working from home becomes a perk of the job.

One last question I have with this is if big companies see larger portions of their workforce want to work from home or move away from Silicon Valley to another state, what happens to the companies culture? Every company strives to inject a certain culture that drives company and product vision, and I wonder how that is implemented and maintained if a large portion of the workforce is remote. I have no answer to this question, but it is something I’m interested to observe if we do see a broader shift in remote work going forward.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

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