Implications of Remote Work

The societal shift to remote work is a bigger shift with more wide-reaching implications than the shift from a 5-day to a 4-day workweek

Implications of Remote Work
Photo by Kristin Wilson / Unsplash

I’m convinced our societal shift to remote work is a bigger shift with more wide-reaching implications than the shift from a 5-day to a 4-day workweek. Here are a few implications and trends related to remote-work (sourced from this post and from many conversations).

  • Loss of wage and price arbitrage: when *some* people can work anywhere but are paid based on expensive urban markets, every place gets more expensive. Local prices and local conditions will be less of a determinant in wages as we move away from location-adjusted pay. Our affordable housing crisis gets worse when companies choose to pay people the same, regardless of location.
  • Work and location are being unbundled: Some workers can now make the “work decision” and the “location decision” independently. This shifts the balance of power from company to employee where talent used to follow jobs but now jobs follow talent (cities are no longer only recruiting employers, but are now recruiting employees). This unbundling also enables workers to locate themselves around important features (near the beach) or family and infrastructure (near extended family for childcare).
  • Inequality between workers: Location-independent workers are choosing where to live. Location-dependent workers follow where the location-independent workers have chosen. The differences between remote vs. essential worker and the location-independent vs. location-dependent worker will reinforce class and wealth divisions between groups of people and between tier 1, tier 2, and tier 3 locations.
  • Work is bound by physical infrastructure: All workers (remote or otherwise) are bound by physical infrastructure (housing, transportation, childcare, etc.). Mountain resort communities have seen an influx of remote workers, but have struggled to build the physical infrastructure needed to accommodate location-dependent workers like those in food, retail, and service. The challenges of physical infrastructure will exacerbate inequality between workers, drive up prices, and upend local politics.
  • Employers under pressure: The cultural experience of remote work will reduce cultural stickiness for employees to stay loyal to their employers, leading to higher turnover and switching costs. Employers will be under pressure to create strong culture in remote spaces. There will be a shift away from standard 9-5 working hours and towards a focus on work-product and deliverables. Remote work means increased geographic freedom, and this freedom will expand to freedom around hours and flexibility.
  • Employees under pressure: Remote work can lead to an erasure of boundaries and a pressure to be constantly available. Employees will be under pressure to care for their mental health and draw boundaries when they’re distanced, remote, and feeling the need to be constantly online.
  • Placemaking: Placemaking becomes more digital and less physically proximate with remote work. There will be greater erosion of location-defined communities as more people build remote-first communities in work and play (the metaverse). We will grow closer to our colleagues in a different time zone than to our neighbors next door.
  • Prepare for the counter-trend: As more teams go remote, other companies will double-down on being in-person as a way to distinguish themselves and create rare experiences and outcomes.