Remote-first work

August 23, 2021
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Work has changed for many. It’s not any more remote or office work but just work in different places. Often, in the location you choose and where you can be the most productive and also at the most convenient time.

Last year, I was writing about these changes and it’s clear that the adaption of the new is becoming normal. Yet, in some other way, we are just at the beginning like with the forthcoming metaverse. Today’s technology looks like the computer games in the ‘80s. Cute but still very primitive compared to the capabilities and hyperrealism later in this decade.

Just do the work

Fully decentralised teams and companies are different. It changes the dynamics of the underlying structures. Who cares where you live as long as you do the work? Time zones matter but the rest is pretty much your private business depending on your personal preferences, needs, requirement and life situation.

This unlocks a lot of potentials. New physical locations become attractive. Some prefer nature and quiet life next to nature. Others enjoy a good climate or other benefits. If you can do the work from anywhere it becomes viable to optimise your cost structure, too. Why pay high taxes and living costs if there are good alternatives?

The talent buffet

When you’ve practically an unlimited supply of talented people worldwide you should do fewer compromises in your recruitment. Previously, it was not realistic to find the exact match for your needs from a given local area where your office happens to be. This limits your options even though some people are willing to re-locate. The friction is real and for some re-location is not an option.

Suddenly, employees and employers have drastically more options. You can become very specific with your needs and wishes. This is a huge opportunity for everyone, and some are utilising it by questionable means.

Tectonic changes in the appeal of geographical locations

Legislation, public services and local attitudes react slowly. Employee laws may not treat remote workers with the same rights and benefits as the locally employed. Taxation, company law and governance have many aspects that are lagging behind and you hit tons of potholes while trying to operate in this new environment.

Some locations are becoming unattractive for these reasons. If you happen to have an unattractive climate, bureaucratic heavy infrastructure and business environment or you tax labour uncompetitively based on the past local preferences it’s easy to become out of sync with the times.

Politicians care about local votes and popularity. Global competition may stay hidden for long where people are voting with their feet globally. There are no massive campaigns or outbursts. You’re just missing new opportunities, there are fewer companies choosing your location and people are preferring to live elsewhere.

The global supply and demand work both ways. If some location becomes too unstable or unattractive it’s just easier to leave. No point in trying to convince the local ecosystem to change for the better.

The winners are countries, cities and local places that are dynamic and see opportunities. It takes guts to try something new. Change is often unpopular among the electorate. There’s a chance you can massively change things for good but the time perspective is longer than your re-election cycle.

It’s easier to protect the incumbents and resist any changes than shake the status quo.

City vs countryside

If you can work remotely why should you live in a city? It’s cheaper to be outside of densely populated areas. This is a personal preference but expect people to start making moves that were rather incomprehensible just a few years before.

Technology enables last-mile deliveries with omnipresent e-commerce that does not care too much where you live. Currently, there’s a worldwide shortage of semiconductors but also construction materials such as timber. Our current housing needs may not reflect the needs of the near future, and this will be reflected in the real estate market.

Times, they are changing. Ready, Player Two?