In our household, Rachel reluctantly cedes control of the remote control to me. I truly believe that I am a better clicker and have better instincts for being able to watch multiple shows at the same time, all while minimizing commercials. As Jerry Seinfeld once said, “Men don’t want to know what is on TV, they want to know what else is on TV.”
In another example of life imitating art, employers are finding that who controls remote “work” is a real issue today. During the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, the world closed down, and both employers and employees had to very quickly learn to deal with a remote work environment.
In what was a previously unthinkable trend, employees got used to working from home…and many of them liked it. In fact, many of them liked it so much that they sold their homes in the cities and moved to the suburbs. As you can see in the chart below, more than 2 million people left the cities, and nearly 3 million people move to the suburbs.
What drove this? Owning a 1,400 square-foot, two bedroom, two bath condo in the city worked fine for a family of four while the parents were at work and the kids were at school every day. However, as the pandemic forced everyone inside the same four walls day after day, space, privacy, and being able to navigate four different remote work and school stations became a real issue.
Some economists believe that as many as 25% of the US employees could be working from home in 2022. That is five times the number that were working remotely prior to the pandemic. This allows them to live in less expensive, less crowded suburban areas, instead of being in big cities.
This has many economic implications. Everything from the survival of the downtown coffee shop and restaurant to the amount of commercial office space that is needed in major cities could be impacted by these trends. We do not know if this trend will reverse once the pandemic is over. We will have to wait and see.
However, according to a survey from the National Bureau of Economic Research, we know that many employees who are able to work from home want to continue doing so. The chart below from NBER’s research shows that more than 77% of employees would like to remote work remotely at least one day per week, and 31% would prefer to work remotely all the time.
We know that not all jobs can be done remotely, but many jobs can be done that way on at least a part-time basis. We also know that not all employers are happy with this trend. Many of them feel they are missing out on productivity, camaraderie, corporate culture, and the sharing of ideas that comes with in person dialogue. There are also concerns about employee’s isolation and mental health if they constantly work alone.
Many of you know that my wife Rachel runs her own HR consulting and recruiting company. She has told me anecdotally, that one of the first and biggest questions she is getting in recruiting potential candidates for open jobs is “Can I work from home?”.
It remains to be seen who will ultimately control the remote. We know that the pandemic accelerated many trends. Everything from grandparents doing video calls via Zoom to employees working from their kitchen table have all been affected. We will continue to watch these trends and what they mean for the economy and for you, our trusted friends and clients. It is important to understand where this is going as we continue “Moving Life Forward”.