Distant employees take everlasting steps. What occurs when places of work reopen? : NPR

Businesses need to be careful how persistent they are in sending workers back to their cubicles. “The good news is you can get everyone back to the office,” says recruiter David Lewis. “The bad news is … not everyone will be back.” Thomas Barwick / Getty Images Hide caption

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Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Businesses need to be careful how persistent they are in sending workers back to their cubicles. “The good news is you can get everyone back to the office,” says recruiter David Lewis. “The bad news is … not everyone will be back.”

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Kate and her husband David moved to a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Denver last March.

“It was brilliant for about two days,” she recalls. The high-rise had floor-to-ceiling windows, a beautiful roof terrace and an outdoor pool.

Then the pandemic came and their jobs went away. “The pool was closed within 48 hours of moving in,” she says. “The gym is closed. All amenities are closed.”

In November, sewage began to flow into her home from the unit above. That made life even more uncomfortable, but it had one advantage: They were allowed to break their lease.

With the freedom to move around, they quickly bought a house – invisible – just outside Duluth, Minnesota, where Kate, now pregnant, has a family.

They initially told their employers the move was only temporary – just because of Kate’s maternity leave. They didn’t mention that they actually bought a home in Minnesota. (Kate, 34, asked to be given her first name because she doesn’t want to complicate her situation.)

“I think we were both afraid of what that would mean for our terms of employment,” she explains, “but also because we couldn’t really admit ourselves, I think how much commitment we made and how crazy we are.” Life changes that happened. “

“Not everyone will come back”

You are not alone in taking big steps during the pandemic. With millions of Americans suddenly working remotely, some took the unprecedented opportunity to re-direct their lives – and kept their fingers crossed that they don’t have to when it is safe to return to the office.

David Lewis is the CEO of OperationsInc, a Connecticut recruiting firm. Many of his clients have seen employees suddenly move out of the state and they have just rolled with it.

“It wasn’t as frowned upon as it probably would have been before COVID – and now I think that reckoning day is coming,” he says.

He predicts that more than half of companies that allow remote working will continue to work at least part-time. And companies should think twice before bringing people back to the office from anywhere. He says, “The good news is you can get everyone back to the office. The bad news is … not everyone is.” will come back. “

When it comes to the workers who have already moved, Lewis says it depends on who those workers are.

“If they are valued and productive employees and continue to be productive while working in this COVID world, chances are organizations will allow them to continue to do so.”

That seems to be the case with Kate and David. Now that they are hundreds of miles from Denver, their employers have indicated that they can likely continue to work remotely.

Hoping to be completely far away forever

In Chicago, 38-year-old Renee felt similarly stuck in her high-rise apartment when the pandemic hit. She asked for her middle name to be provided so as not to complicate her employment status.

Her job at a research firm was out of the way, and most of her friend’s customers who walked the dog no longer needed him. For months, the couple left their River North apartment just for a 6 a.m. walk.

Renee had long dreamed of moving to Seattle. As the pandemic dragged on, she asked her employer for permission to temporarily move to Washington State. After an initial pushback, she had a new manager who had no problem with her move.

After holding a Zoom wedding in October, the newlyweds packed up some belongings and their cat bagels and headed for Seattle.

You are now living in a number of month-long rentals.

Renee didn’t miss winter in Chicago and loves having easier access to nature. “Seattle has all these beautiful parks,” she says. “You can go to the mountains in 30 minutes and do these amazing hikes.”

There are compromises. One advantage: Washington has no state income tax. On the downside, the couple now pays double for housing as they still have the mortgage on their Chicago apartment. They’re not ready to sell this yet, partly because they don’t know if or when to return to the office.

She knows that many of her colleagues want to be back in the office at least part-time. But for them the goal is to be completely distant forever.

For employers, relocations bring costs and benefits

A PwC survey of 1,200 U.S. office workers currently working remotely found that when the pandemic recedes, 29% would like to work remotely five days a week. And a whopping 55% said they want to be away at least three days a week.

Company managers are a little less enthusiastic. A parallel survey of executives found that 68% believe that employees should be in the office at least three days a week to maintain corporate culture, and 65% believe the office is “very important” to increasing employee productivity .

Bhushan Sethi leads PwC’s HR strategy. Whether companies allow significant remote working depends on the industry they are in, the size of their real estate footprint, and whether many young workers need training.

However, there are some great potential benefits for employers when working remotely. Companies can hire talent in places they couldn’t before, Sethi says.

Offering remote jobs can mean you gain or lose an advantage in talent acquisition and retention. Lewis predicts a large increase in the number of job advertisements that suggest a position may be at least partially removed.

“Jump off a ledge without a parachute”

While some workers have moved across the country, others have moved within the very long commute area.

One of them is 34-year-old Benji, who moved his partner and daughter from downtown Detroit to Lansing, Michigan in August. He asked not to use his last name so as not to complicate his professional situation.

He and his partner signed a two-year lease, even though Benji’s employer, a major health insurance company, has not given him permission to work abroad on a permanent basis.

“Oh, it felt totally risky,” he laughs. “It felt like I was jumping off a ledge without a parachute.”

In Lansing, he enjoys being close to his family, cheaper living costs and the local schools for his daughter. “If there isn’t a deadly virus, it’s a fun city,” he says.

He is inspired by the digital nomads he follows on YouTube and in travel blogs. They seem to enjoy a sense of freedom and opportunity in their life that he hasn’t felt in his own work life, he says.

“You live in Bali and work on a laptop with a hot spot in a bikini – and I was honestly jealous!” he laughs. “Moving from Detroit to Lansing is about what I would get closest to this jet-setting lifestyle.”

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