Whether employees should be allowed to work remotely full-time is rapidly becoming one of the great debates of modern life. Many companies (including some prominent ones, such as Airbnb) have wholeheartedly embraced remote work for their workforces; but there’s also increasing pushback from executives, pundits, mayors, and consultants who think employees belong in the office.
“It’s not in your best interest to work at home,” author and speaker Malcolm Gladwell recently said on a podcast. “I know it’s a hassle to come into the office, but if you’re just sitting in your pajamas in your bedroom, is that the work life you want to live?”
Warming to his theme, Gladwell added: “I’m really getting very frustrated with the inability of people in positions of leadership to explain this effectively to their employees.” (As an author and speaker who presumably sets his own hours and working conditions, does Gladwell work from home? Does he find that fulfilling? But we digress.)
The push to return to work is coming from multiple directions, from New York Times op-eds to city governments that want workers spending their money downtown. But many workers don’t really want to go back, and given the current unemployment rate, they feel like they’re in a position of strength—according to our latest quiz, only a quarter would be willing to take a pay cut to work from home:
Some 1,935 respondents took this online quiz, so it’s a decent sample size. It also reinforces some recent tech-industry data around remote work, particularly that widespread remote work has begun to shrink the traditional “geography gap” in pay.
For many years, technologists in major tech hubs such as Silicon Valley could expect to earn quite a bit more money than their professional colleagues in other cities such as Kansas City of Phoenix. This gap was driven by factors such as major tech hubs’ cost of living, the presence of large companies in those tech hubs willing to pay technologists huge salaries, and more. But data from Payscale, Protocol, and other companies and publications have come to a similar conclusion: pay is still rising in the major tech hubs, but it’s rising even faster in cities and states that haven’t traditionally fostered large tech communities.
“For senior software engineers, the pay gap between the most expensive U.S. cities and the least expensive shrank by two-thirds between 2019 and 2021, according to data from the compensation data provider Pave,” Protocol recently explained. “By the third quarter of last year, the gap between Tier 1 salaries and Tier 3 salaries had narrowed from 18.1 percent to just 5.9 percent.”
Remote work is supposedly driving that shrinkage, and it reflects many technologists’ unwillingness to take a pay cut if they choose to work from their couch or home office. Many companies might want everyone back in the office, but they’ll have to really push to convince workers to actually return.