During the most acute phase of the pandemic we came to terms with the fact that work from home will not be just a temporary thing enforced due to the crisis, but will remain as the new normal once all of this is over. What we could not expect was the switch for the “work from home” to become the most widely spread mode of work in the near future.
The first one to announce the switch was Jack Dorsey, one of the founders and CEO of Twitter, who revealed that the employees of the company who worked from home during the pandemic will be allowed to continue doing so after the crisis is over. The proclamation did not sound like an option that will be offered to the employees to choose whether to stay at home or return to the office, but more like an offer that they cannot refuse.
Soon after this declaration was broadcasted by Twitter’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg announced that at least 50% of Facebook employees will continue working from home after the corona pandemic ceases. He went a step further and said that those who live or decide to live outside the Silicon Valley where the company is headquartered, will receive salary adjustments to meet the expenses of living in a new location. Yup, you got it right – the salaries will be decreased.
I assume your initial reaction to this piece of news was that the majority of those currently living in the Silicon Valley and working for Facebook will not move away, because why would anyone go through the whole hassle of relocating elsewhere only to earn less money? Well, don’t be too fast to jump to conclusions just yet. The “offer” coming from Facebook’s CEO is the type of offer you simply cannot refuse due to its inherent logic, despite the questionable morale behind it. Current concentration of global tech companies in Silicon Valley has attracted a large number of engineers, programmers and other IT aficionados to that part of California, in pursuit of building a career within one of the tech giants. This in turn affected the real estate prices, blowing up the costs of living exponentially, making Silicon Valley one of the US’s most expensive zip codes. This where the carrot comes into play. Anyone who decides to relocate someplace else, taking the offer with the adjusted salary will have a better quality of life even with the decreased income by moving away from the company’s headquarters.
It is obvious that Zuckerberg’s motives to put this kind of offer on the table arise not out of care for his employees’ well-being but from the idea of boosting the company’s and his own profit. In this case, profit margins would go up due to decreased salaries on one hand and on the other, as a result of thel drop of related costs in the current HQ office in Silicon Valley. Less office space, less rent and mortgage payments, decreased costs of everyday business operations including cutting on transport costs for employees, office food, snacks, beverages and more equals increase in profits.
Btw, Facebook already developed its internal platform called “Workplace” that enables employees to easily work from different locations, and smooth out the transition into the new work mode for the company.
It seems Google is moving in the similar direction, and it comes as no surprise that the company decided to drop the purchase of the location for building additional business premises that were supposed to encompass around 200,000 sqm of new office space.
The biggest tech giants are not the only companies who are introducing this kind of measures, as the trend started even before the crisis, with the pandemic only snowballing the effects of the shift. Zappier, another software tech company, offered to its employees a de-location fee of up to 10,000 USD if they move outside Silicon Valley, and continue working from somewhere else in the States. The reasoning why this would be a good move is similar to the ones given by Twitter and Facebook. Alongside this, the corporate blog of the company already started promoting testimonials from “happy customers” who took the plunge and moved, showing how amazing it is to not live in the Silicon Valley – much like the famous TV infomercials.
The fact that this is a fast-growing trend that will only continue spreading around is attested by the terminology that already exists for this type of measures: COLA – Cost-Of-Living-Adjustment. Unfortunately, this COLA is not for drinking.
Moving business operations to locations that provide lower production costs is not a novelty. The practice was long connected to factory-related production that as a consequence of globalization moved to countries with cheap labor. At least in this part of the world we know all kind of forms that such practices can have, including those akin to slavery.
With the development of the IT technologies, a considerable number of jobs became location independent, allowing for the practice to spread globally. This was particularly true for the coders and programmers, when businesses moved to places where labor was cheaper. This is also a form of practice we here can attest to firsthand.
What we are facing right now is the most radical twist towards the new mode of work in general. Not so long ago we keenly kept up with a fresh approach to business by giants that were redesigning their headquarters and offices to feel more cozy, homey and domestic. These companies hosted in their premises – aside from ample office space and conference rooms – relaxation spots, sleeping capsules, fitness centers, cafes, restaurants with top notch catering, game rooms for kids of the employees and many other things that until recently were truly unimaginable in a business setting. The purpose of the strategy was very simple – attract the best talent to join the company ranks, create a stimulating environment for work, increase productivity, enhance connections within the team and build loyalty by making the coworkers feel at home.
Today, things are taking a 180༠ turn. The basic function of the office space in the company will change. These will not be offices where employees are working full time during defined working hours, but will become a space for certain employees to visit occasionally for meetings, education workshops and seldom get-togethers to maintain the base amount of company culture. It remains to be seen how long will the model last, having in mind that we so eagerly adjusted and got hooked up on Zoom and similar apps for remote work and socialization.
The same companies that made you feel at home in their offices, will now start persuading you that it is in your best interest to move their office into your home. If need be, the company will provide all the necessary equipment, or whatever else you may need to make you feel at work in your own home. This time around, in this part of the world, we can at least find solace in the fact that we are not the only ones going through this alone. This has simply become the faith of the entire world…