The Work from Home Effect – Why Cities May Disappear

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COVID-19 has wreaked havoc in the modern workers’ life, although not all for the worse. A massive change has been working from home, where employees can remote in to conduct their business. While a sweet deal for many, this paradigm shift could have long-ranging consequences yet to rear their head. We’ll call this ‘The Work from Home Effect.’

To be clear, many employers are bringing employees back to the office during the upcoming Summer months. Whether this is tossing a bone towards middle managers who suddenly can’t call thirty meetings a day in the virtual environment, or more towards cybersecurity concerns, the workplace is coming back for many. The shift back to the office means once again spending over an hour in the daily commute for many employees, the pandemic be damned.

The Cost of Work

For others, it means needing to either pack lunch or eat at pricey commercial diners during the lunch hour. For those who must go back (and a slew of workers are demanding work from home, or they will find a new job), that sucks. However, there are also many companies that aren’t requiring employees to come back into the cattle pens – this is actually where we can begin to see problems crop up.

Work from home goes far beyond helping employees, as it actually helps the employers as well. Instead of only being able to seek localized talent, companies can drastically increase their range of possible employees to include digital nomads and international workers. It’s taking advantage of the productivity avenues already solidified during the COVID-19 pandemic to decrease employee overhead with office space, electricity, internet, and the like.

Many companies have enjoyed the increased productivity of employees working from home – surveys of employees have found a drastically increased workplace satisfaction1 with increased productivity across the board2. These companies have little intent to go back to corralling the proles into commercial districts once the pandemic is over, and that is going to leave the commercial real estate in a strange limbo after the leases are up. This could bring ‘The Work from Home Effect’ to a quick realization, in an unpleasant way, for many estate developers.

Cities around the world host commercial office space for a premium. Cities tend to grow as a means of supporting these office spaces. From residential buildings to restaurants, cities craft a pseudo-food chain of commercial businesses. When we remove, to pull a figure out of our ass, 50% of businesses looking to fill these ‘high demand’ office spaces, a cataclysmic chain of events can rend through cities around the world.

The Work from Home Effect

The commercial real estate market would suddenly crash, putting multiple businesses within cities at risk due to decreased traffic. The same businesses, notably, that struggled valiantly throughout the pandemic. Already, the residential side of real estate has been experiencing bizarre fluctuations, but without 50% of businesses interested in renting out these multi-million-dollar towers, there’s suddenly a tremendously vacant market that once was the arguable backbone of cities.

Ostensibly, there would be a sudden shift as businesses holding these commercial spaces attempt to refit them for residential housing (presuming zoning codes can be altered on a whim), but the other proverbial shoe would need to drop. The lack of companies operating in aggregated spaces would invite many to finally leave the humdrum of cities to settle where they see fit, likely resulting in a more evenly distributed population across countries.

This brings about the question of the United States’ relatively weak infrastructure. This is granted to us by companies lobbying to protect profits while subsidizing operating costs. 😠 The internet in the United States is a joke in international comparisons. US citizens pay some of the greatest fees for the lowest speeds, and that’s if the ISP’s can manage to offer their advertised speeds.

How To Get Rich

It seems so damn easy to be wealthy because you can have taxpayers foot the bill for every bullshit project you want to throw money at. Instead of investing in infrastructure and schools, a lot of tax dollars go towards investing in people who are already absurdly wealthy. Football stadiums are typically paid for by taxpayers, the tax code is uniquely esoteric to encourage citizens to use tax preparation services3, 4, 5, and so on. 

Taxpayers interestingly had their funds moved towards ISPs to the tune of a couple billion in an agreement for national fiber coverage6, 7, which the ISPs failed to deliver. The best way to get rich is to start rich, and then lean on desperate politicians willing to sell out their constituents for a surprisingly low fee. Just make sure that your political side is more popular than the other one, to ensure every moron with a pulse keeps voting against their own interests. Even more so if your side is wearing flannel.

Many regions within the United States have internet coverage gaps, where ISPs find it not profitable enough to offer services. Alternatives are available, yet those typically pale in comparison to standardized fiber connections (which many districts continue to lack). Individuals who focus on text-based works, such as backend developers and data entry, could still work within these regions. Those that require more data in employment would need to remain within regions that offer stronger transfer rates.

Possible Struggles of Resettlement

The proposed resettlement could also result in culture clash within the United States. One thing to bear in mind is how sizable the US is in comparison to other countries. Various regions have their own cultures within the United States, notably visible during BLM marches and the 2016-2020 US administration. 

Resettlement of professionals across the United States could exacerbate current cultural problems. This could result in the further increasing militarization of the police8,9. It could also bring about a resurgence of infrastructural spending, however – an aspect that is desperately needed for many regions across the United States.

The precise consequences of the work from home effect are admittedly up in the air. All anyone can possibly do at the moment is speculate on the possibilities on an international scale. One thing that many seem to agree upon, however, is the impending crisis of commercial estate.

  1. Folkman, J. (2020, September 1). Survey Shows How Employees Really Feel About Working From Home. Forbes. 
  2. Curran, E. (n.d.). 
  3. Kiel, P., & Elliott, J. (n.d.). Inside TurboTax’s 20-Year Fight to Stop Americans From Filing Their Taxes for Free. ProPublica. 
  4. Popken, B. (2017, March 23). TurboTax, H&R Block Spend Big Bucks Lobbying for Us to Keep Doing Our Own Taxes. 
  5. Rivero, N. (n.d.). US taxpayers are paying TurboTax to keep taxes complicated. Quartz. 
  6. Americans Taxed $400 Billion For Fiber Optic Internet That Doesn’t Exist. National Economics Editorial. (2017, November 30). 
  7.  Bode, K. (n.d.). Oh Look, More Giant ISPs Taking Taxpayer Money For Unfinished Networks. Techdirt. 
  8. American Civil Liberties Union. (2014, June). War Comes Home – The Excessive Militarization of American Policing. 
  9. Akpan, N. (2018, August 21). Police militarization fails to protect officers and targets black communities, study finds. PBS.

Image Credit: Standsome WorkLifeStyle

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