As more countries move to de-escalate lockdown, it’s becoming clear that the largest ever experiment in working practices has borne fruit, and that for many people things will never be the same again.
For example, a US Census Bureau survey reveals that one-third of all American workers and half of all so-called “information workers” are able to work from home, and that 98% would like the option of working from home for the rest of their career. Nearly two-thirds of candidates say that whether a company offers alternative work locations (home or office) is a key consideration when choosing a job. On the other side of the equation, companies are managing to save about $11,000 annually for every employee who works from home approximately half the time. For employees, the change translates into savings of between $2,500 and $4,000 annually if they work from home half the time, and even more if they decide to move to less expensive areas or if they decide to work from home most of the time. In fact, Facebook, which claims that half of its workers could be working from home in the next five to 10 years, says it will adjust salaries for those who decide to move to areas where the cost of living is lower.
Meanwhile, Google has just announced it will allow employees whose work does not require their presence at the Googleplex, its mythical offices, to continue working from home if they wish, and will give them $1,000 toward the cost of buying computers, additional monitors, cameras, or office furniture. CEO Sundar Pichai says as of July 6, the company will acquire more buildings so as to offer alternatives for those who need or simply want to return to the office, so that, if capacity permits, they can be used on a limited and rotating basis (it is calculated around one day every two weeks, which would mean an occupation of approximately 10%). This is a sea change for a company that has always preferred its workers to be office-based, with few exceptions.
We are in the process of moving from “working from home because there is an emergency” to “working from home because I prefer to, because I have made the necessary arrangements to make it comfortable, and because I can still enjoy the benefits of an office when I want or need to.” A growing number of companies have already offered their employees the possibility of not returning to the office if they don’t want to, and there is even talk of a possible exodus from Silicon Valley as the people who gentrified the San Francisco Bay Area look for better properties at more reasonable prices, a move that would also improve factors such as traffic or air quality.
This trend toward working from home may take longer in other industries and cultures. But in the end, trends are trends. And this one, in my opinion, and as I have been saying for many years, makes a lot of sense and should be embraced.