The Great Resignation: Remote workplaces and the future of work

As we come out of the pandemic, millions of americans are starting to question what they found during the time spent indoors with their loved ones, and what they potentially could have lost in the most catastrophic of situations.

More people quit their jobs in April than any other month in the history of the US tracking work statistics as companies that have survived and in some cases thrived during the pandemic make the short sided decision to compel their employees to return to the office.

Instead of recognizing the value add of a more rested and happy workforce, some companies like JP Morgan are putting out public threats to their employees about what happens if they dont return to the commute and grind of daily work life we were accustomed to a year and a half ago.

So whats the deal? Are these “old school” companies so arrogant that they feel like losing 10-20% of their white collar work force is a drop in the bucket, or that they can be replaced easily, and there will be no consequences? Are they banking on people becoming desperate when extended unemployment benefits turn off?

Why the short sidedness now? The future of work is remote, and we have over a year of data now showing that it works. Are they cutting off their nose to spite their face simply for the ability to control the lives of their workers and force these unneeded commutes and office hours upon them?

Are there any business owners here that are planning to make a permanent switch to remote work? Why or why not? I would love to get some input from that side, because I currently dont see an argument for this push to return to the office for non customer facing roles.

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There seems to also be tons of movement even if the company is not trying to force onsite work. The company I work for is basically leaving it up to each person to decide, and we have still had crazy turn-over which started immediately after annual bonuses were paid out in May. And I don’t think it’s compensation related, as we pay competitively and regularly adjust salaries according to the market. I would guess the people leaving think they are blocked from advancement or perhaps don’t like their boss. Anyway, my point is that people hunkered down during the pandemic and now the people who are not happy are all leaving at once, and in many cases it has nothing to do with being forced back to the office.

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There’s also a good amount of the iron law of institutions going on. It’s good for the careers of management to have everyone in the office so they want everyone in the office. As far as whether it’s good for the institution, they don’t really care do you?

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If nothing else, the freedom of remote work gives employees far greater freedom in selecting an employer rather than being geographically limited to places an acceptable commute away from their domicile, or limited by the upheaval to their lives by moving, potentially far away from their whole social support network. It shouldn’t be too surprising that people will change jobs more when the cost of doing so is much lower.

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There is certainly some of this. Do you think there is a solution? I mean, a lot of people were happy to continue working during the pandemic, so why the change now? Have they realized that coming out of this there are things they may be missing in the opened up world that they arent willing to sacrifice their work days for?

I think we could combine this post with my own and make an argument that, if nothing else, management wants the expectation of people in the office to reduce turnover.

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For a lot of roles there’s just no reason to ever tolerate going back to the office more than like maybe one day a week. That battle is already lost and the managers who try to hold the line are going to get swept away. I get why they want things to be one way but it’s the other way. To @mrwookie’s point it’s way too easy to tell your boss to go fuck his or herself and get a job somewhere else for the same or better money working 100% remote.

All kidding aside if someone says they’re willing to die on this hill… this is the hill they really do die on.

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I think Wookie probably nailed it in his post preceding yours.

Yeah I think hes pretty much spot on. I feel as a people we are a lot more nomadic than the 1950s suburb/white picket fence/40 years in the same house thing we had going for decades.

And the number of people who rent and are priced out of buying keeps going up. How likely are you to want to be in a company where a year from now you might have to leave due to a rent hike?

Maybe ive always wanted to live in LA or NYC, or Honolulu. And maybe I only want to do any of those things for the length of a single lease. Having the freedom to do so means more to me now than it ever has. Im obviously not alone in that

I’ve been wondering if companies will try to make cost of living salary adjustments for people who work remotely, and what that would look like/how it would go down.

Theyll certainly try, but whatever trade off they get by you living in a lower cost of living area, they are saving themselves by not paying for physical overhead for you, so it would be total bullshit, and I cant imagine people standing for it as a matter of course.

Where they can they will. I think they’re going to discover that the talent was what was hard to come by not the location. I don’t see the top 10% taking much of a paycut when they move to be somewhere smaller/cheaper/less congested. It might be a while before they get another raise though.

Put another way it’s the people in demand that make places cost more money. If anything what you see is them spreading out more evenly and prices rising modestly in less dense places and falling modestly in the big 3-5 cities. The pay packages of the people in demand are set by the nationwide market for their services not by their living expenses.

Yeah I agree with you and Matt. If anything, it will likely start with new hires. If they can find talented new hires outside of the high cost of living areas who are willing to work for less, salary ranges will naturally drift down over time. If not, they won’t.

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I feel like the record-breaking April stats for people quitting their job has to be heavily impacted by things opening up post-covid, and that allows many people who had taken jobs that they needed to survive moving on to better pastures.

I currently work as an independent consultant (headhunter/recruiter). My main areas of focus are manufacturing and supply chain, especially in aerospace, chemicals, and biotech. My clients have some employees that kept going on-site during covid because that is where the manufacturing is done. There has only been the normal amount of employee turn over among that group, both during covid and presently. On the other hand, their employees that could WFH are turning over at a slightly higher rate than pre-covid.

Personally, I was WFH before covid, and still am WFH. Right now, I’m being recruited by some former co-workers to get involved with a start up doing sales for them. The comp package looks great, plus stock options, and full benefits. But get this…they want me to come into an office in order to do sales pitches over Zoom! lol. I can barely stop myself from laughing every time I discuss the opportunity with them. Like you want me to commute 30+ minutes each way so that I can zoom…gtfo.

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Thats truly insane, especially for a sales job. You make the real money closing. If you decide not to work while being remote youre only hurting yourself.

I used to drive 70 miles each way (+2.5 hours each way unless I got up at 4:30 AM) to sit in my office and do remote meetings with people all over the country and world. Many times there was a conference room set up for the local attendees, and we all remoted in from our office anyway! I had already forced myself to 2 days or less at the office before the pandemic, but in hindsight even doing it that frequently was dumb.

Did that not seem rude to your customers?

By local attendees I meant onsite employees. I don’t conference with customers. I have global responsibility for our clinical supply chain activities so mostly these are meetings with our contractors who are manufacturing, packaging, labeling, and distributing our drugs to hospitals and clinics.

I’m loving the idea of a customer coming into the office for a meeting, being shown into a conference room, where they then have a remote meeting with a guy in the next room.

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I have to wonder if there isn’t a bit of sunk cost fallacy going on here on the part of employers, especially in terms of real estate. Even among those that lease space.

These companies are thinking “omg, we have all this office space that we spend so much money on, and now it comes out that we don’t actually need it!” Instead of downsizing their spaces, etc, They instead demand that the space be filled again.

I know my husband’s company has to be feeling this. They built (and still own) a giant complex of buildings, some office, some manufacturing, and they are just itching to get people back to the office full time. Except, they keep having to push the full time return date because the middle management keeps pushing back, telling the leadership that their teams (except manufacturing, ldo) are more productive at home. So the full time return date has been moved from June 15 (when CA opened up) to August 1st, and now to Sep 30th.

And of course, if they did want to downsize and lease out the space, they run into the same problem with any company who might lease from them.

I also get the sense that the class of workers who have the types of jobs that can WFH have realized their own power, and we’ll start to see more people demanding the option. I wonder if we’ll have any meaningful data anytime soon comparing between companies with similar functions that offer WFH and those that don’t.

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