Teleworkers make permanent moves. What happens when the offices reopen? : NPR
Thomas Barwick / Getty Images
Kate ray and her husband, David, had just moved into a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Denver last March.
“It was great for about two days,” she recalls. The high-rise building offered floor-to-ceiling windows, a gorgeous rooftop terrace, and an outdoor pool.
Then the pandemic came and their jobs went away. “The pool closed within 48 hours of our move in”, says Ray, 34 years old. “The gym is closed. All amenities are closed.”
In November, sewage began to flow into their apartment from the unit above. It made life even more unpleasant, but it had an advantage: they were allowed to break their lease.
With the freedom to move around, they quickly bought a home – unseen – just outside of Duluth, Minn., Where Ray, who was now pregnant, has family.
They first told their employers that the move was temporary – just during her maternity leave. They did not mention that they had bought a house in Minnesota.
“I think we were both scared of what that would mean for our terms of employment,” she explains, “but also because we couldn’t really admit to each other, I think, the level of commitment that we were doing and the crazy level of life changes that were happening. “
“Not everyone will come back”
They are not the only ones making great strides during the pandemic. With millions of Americans suddenly working remotely, some have seized the unprecedented opportunity to turn their lives in a new direction – keeping their fingers crossed that when they can safely return to the office, they won’t have to. do it.
David Lewis is the CEO of OperationsInc, a Connecticut HR consulting firm. Many of his clients have seen employees suddenly leave the state, and they’ve just accepted it.
“It wasn’t as bad as it probably would have been before COVID – and now I think that judgment day is coming,” he says.
He predicts that more than half of companies that can allow remote working will continue to do so, at least part-time. And companies should think twice before they have a heavy hand in ordering people to return to the office wherever they are now, he says. “The good news is you could get everyone back to the office,” he says. “The bad news is … not everyone is going to come back.”
As for workers who have already moved, Lewis says it depends on who those workers are.
“If they are valued and productive employees, and have continued to be productive while working in this COVID world, chances are, organizations will allow them to continue to do so.”
This appears to be the case with the Rays. Now that they’re hundreds of miles from Denver, their employers have hinted that they could probably continue to work remotely.
Hoping to be completely far away forever
In Chicago, Renee, 38, also felt stuck in her high-rise condo when the pandemic hit. She asked to use her middle name so as not to complicate her employment status.
His job at a market research company moved away and most of his boyfriend’s dog walking clients no longer needed him. For months, the couple only left their River North condo for a 6am walk.
Renée had long dreamed of moving to Seattle. As the pandemic dragged on, she sought approval from her employer to temporarily relocate to Washington state. After the initial pushback, she ended up with a new manager who had no issues with her move.
So, after hosting a Zoom wedding in October, the newlyweds packed some things and their cat, Bagel, and headed to Seattle.
They are now staying in a series of monthlong rentals.
Renée didn’t miss the Chicago winter and loves having easier access to nature. “In Seattle you have all these beautiful parks,” she says. “You can drive up the mountains in 30 minutes and do these amazing hikes.”
There are tradeoffs. One advantage: Washington has no state income tax. One downside: The couple are now paying double for housing, as they still have the mortgage on their Chicago condo. They are not yet ready to sell it, in part because she does not know if or when she will have to return to the office.
She knows many of her coworkers want to be back in the office at least part-time. But for her, the goal is to be totally distant forever.
For employers, moving comes with costs and benefits
A PwC survey of 1,200 U.S. office workers currently working remotely found that when the pandemic recedes, 29% want to work remotely five days a week. And 55% said they would like to be away at least three days a week.
Business leaders are a little less enthusiastic. A parallel survey of executives found that 68% think workers should be in the office at least three days a week to maintain the corporate culture, and 65% think the office is “very important” for increasing the productivity of employees. employees.
Bhushan Sethi leads PwC’s workforce strategy practice. He says whether companies allow significant remote work will depend on the industry they’re in, the size of their real estate footprint, and whether they have a lot of young workers to train.
But there are big potential benefits for remote working employers. Companies can hire talent from places they couldn’t before, Sethi says.
And offering jobs remotely can mean gaining – or losing – an edge in attracting and retaining talent. Lewis predicts a sharp increase in the number of job postings touting the fact that a position can be at least partly remote.
“Jump from a ledge without a parachute”
While some workers have moved across the country, others have moved on very long journeys.
One of them is Benji, 34, who moved with his partner and daughter from downtown Detroit to Lansing, Michigan in August. He asked that his last name not be used so as not to complicate his professional situation.
He and his partner signed a two-year lease, even though Benji’s employer, a large health insurance company, did not give him permission to work remotely on a permanent basis.
“Oh, that was totally risky,” he laughs. “I felt like I was jumping off a ledge without a parachute.”
In Lansing, he benefits from being close to his family, a lower cost of living and local schools for his daughter. “When there’s no deadly virus, it’s a fun city,” he says.
He is inspired by the digital nomads he follows on YouTube and travel blogs. They seem to enjoy a sense of freedom and possibility in their life that he hadn’t felt in his own professional life, he says.
“They live in Bali and work on a laptop with a hot spot in their bikini – and I was honestly jealous,” he says. “Moving from Detroit to Lansing is pretty much the closest thing to this kind of jet-set lifestyle.”