Last week, Facebook announced something of a bombshell: Even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, the social-networking giant will allow many of its employees to work remotely on a permanent basis.
“It’s clear that COVID has changed a lot about our lives, and that certainly includes the way that most of us work,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees during a staff meeting. “Coming out of this period, I expect that remote work is going to be a growing trend as well.”
Facebook employees’ ability to work from home will hinge on positive performance reviews, as well as seniority. In January 2021, the company will also adjust employees’ salaries based on cost of living; in theory, a Facebook developer based in the Midwest will earn less than a colleague based in San Francisco, even if they’re both at the same corporate rank and have similar tasks. (Who knows what Facebook will do with its massive headquarters, as seen above.)
This is a massive philosophical change from just a few years back, when Facebook offered financial incentives to employees who opted to move close to its massive Silicon Valley campus. This new embrace of remote work, though, isn’t unique to Zuckerberg’s company; Twitter, for example, announced that the majority of its employees will now work from home post-COVID.
If we’re on the verge of a massive shift toward remote work, how will that change Silicon Valley and San Francisco? For years, the area’s tech giants poured resources into assembling huge campuses designed by star architects. Their employees filled the surrounding towns and neighborhoods, which spiked housing prices and the overall cost of living. Dice’s own analysis found that the high expense of Silicon Valley could stretch even the fattest tech paycheck to the absolute breaking point. Curbed San Francisco crunched some numbers in October 2019 and found that the average one-bedroom rent in San Francisco was more than $3,000.
If Facebook, Twitter, and, presumably, other companies begin to embrace remote work, will the cost of living fall as people begin to move from Silicon Valley and San Francisco for cheaper locales? Reports indicated that a migration of sorts had already begun before COVID-19, with many technologists deciding to try their luck in other up-and-coming tech hubs such as Salt Lake City, Raleigh, and Atlanta.
Indeed, a recent analysis of nationwide tech-job postings found that Chicago, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Austin all boasted nearly as many open positions as San Francisco. In light of that, it’s very possible that tech companies embracing remote work could only accelerate some migratory trends toward newer, smaller, cheaper tech hubs.
But that’s not to say that the death of Silicon Valley is imminent. The area boasts a variety of well-entrenched factors that could keep it a major player for decades to come, even if the number of local companies and technologists declines. It boasts clusters of universities, VC incubators, well-established companies, and a culture of innovation. In fact, one could argue that, if a culture of remote work helps depress the area’s cost of living, it could encourage young innovators and startup founders to launch a startup in Mountain View as opposed to, say, Houston.
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