I spend a lot of time thinking about the future of work and in particular how people will earn money from their home offices. Naturally I can’t predict the future but I have some thoughts about trends that are emerging that should excite remote workers.
The End of the Commute
Remote work will reduce your commute. You will spend less time, effort, and money moving your body to a space or office where you will connect to the internet and complete tasks you could manage from any internet hotspot. In person meetings are giving way to video calls via webcam. This decline in commuting will reduce your carbon footprint, reduce your dependency on a car or public transport, and increase your general health and well being. You will have more free time to pursue activities you enjoy and you will care more about your home environment and space because you will spend more time there.
The Reemergence of The American Dream
I have a friend who has roots in Hawaii. Up until recently he was required by his firm to work in their San Francisco office. As a result of Covid19 and mandatory shelter from home, he has re-evaluated his work life setup. He is now looking to move home confident that he can work anywhere, anytime. While his story is small in terms of broader economic trends, it is interesting as it might capture a broader social shift. People will take remote work and leave expensive congested cities and urban areas for places that are more affordable and offer aspects of the American Dream. Of course the American Dream means different things to different people but to me it means some semblance of the following: home ownership, local community engagement, and a living standard that surpasses that of your parents. The demarkation of this progress has been halted for many younger workers. They have record student debt. They don’t earn high enough wages. They don’t get a pension. They live with their parents. The list goes on. Why live like that? Well for many people remote work will end this cycle. It will provide greater liberties and freedoms, open new geographic dreams (who wouldn’t want to live in Maui for a year while working), and reduce overhead costs. These shifts will, in time, hopefully help strengthen the American Dream for more people.
Sustainable living includes the reduction in a person’s ecological footprint. By working from home you are greatly reducing your energy needs. Some of these changes are obvious: by not commuting you are not using gasoline. But there are many other examples. Many office buildings are hugely inefficient. They soak up the sun and create heat islands, which are exposed urban surfaces that soak up heat. Offices are also, by definition, energy poor spaces. At best they are filled only 8 hours a day. This means they are heated and cooled 16 hours a day for people not present. The roads, bridges, parking lots, transit systems, and buildings used to convey you to an office building or office park act as heat islands. You will consume less fast fashion (because the office culture of remote work is less formal). You will likely fly less if your role can be done entirely remotely. In short, having a remote job will likely greatly decrease your energy consumption and the wasteful energy uses of the buildings, bridges, roads, and space you consumed just to get on the internet.
I know of a company that is paying remote staff more. Why? Because these workers costs less to employ! The reasoning is quite simple. If you are working remotely you don’t need an office desk and space. By not providing these assets to you, your firm is saving money. They are putting the onus on you to buy yourself office supplies like a ladder desk, vertical monitor, and laptop stand. Moreover, if you are working from a less expensive geographic area, you can pocket the difference between local wages and real expenses. A new graduate engineer in San Francisco earns a roughly $110k base salary. In San Francisco this means roommates and few after tax savings. But in many parts of the U.S. (and world) this means wealth creation. You, the worker, can see these benefits without getting a raise or added benefits. That is a very cool perk indeed: the firm pays the same amount of wages but you become richer by taking the wage and going to a lower cost environment. Only through remote work can you obtain this outcome.
If you want to ditch the suite – now is the time. Working from home likely will afford healthier outcomes for you and the planet. You will be able to work when you want and how. You will be able to reduce the burden of time wasted and high commuting costs. You can lower your ecological footprint. You can save money to empower your vision and the version of the American Dream you aspire to. All of these are within your control. These are my aspirations. Are they yours?