How remote work will improve lives and destroy cities


Remember when technicians ruined San Francisco with their mere presence?

The crisis peaked between 2014 and 2017 when the booming tech industry was blamed for driving up the cost of real estate. Tech companies have spurred strong demand for office space and rental housing.

Now they are blamed for ruining San Francisco – by their absence.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed recently said tech workers have left town or are working remotely and won’t be returning to their San Francisco offices anytime soon.

This has a significant financial impact on municipal budgets. Additionally, the city’s office vacancy rate hit 21.7% or 24.2% (depending on who measures it) in the second quarter (5.7% pre-pandemic).

Before the pandemic, office workers — including technicians — accounted for 72% of the city’s budget. Now their absence is costing the city hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.

San Francisco-based Salesforce has downsized three times since the pandemic began.

Tesla, Oracle, NortonLifeLock, QuestionPro, Varo Bank, Palantir, Tanium, Sendoso and many other tech companies have moved out of San Francisco and Silicon Valley over the past couple of years and mostly moved to low-tax states in the South. is from the United States.

Also having an effect: high crime, high taxes and other factors, discouraging workers and businesses from wanting to be in San Francisco.

And, of course, many of these workers are working remotely and from home.

Portland, OR has similar issues. The commercial real estate vacancy rate has now reached 17.5% and continues to rise.

And in New York, big tech companies aren’t helping.

Meta and Amazon have reportedly suspended plans for local expansion and even reduced space, compounding the city’s vacancy issues.

The contraction in the number of office workers and office space is also causing some communities to worry about a possible threat of “no-transit” – the closure of public transport options, routes, lanes and stations.

Urban restaurants, hotels, bars, cafes and other such businesses are also feeling the effects. The massive slowdown in business travel and the reduction in technology and trade shows are hammering urban conference centers, hotels, restaurants and other businesses.

How the future of work is changing the future of cities

As I predicted last year, the shift to remote work is causing a chain reaction. (And it’s exacerbated by a seemingly endless pandemic, economic downturn and other factors.)

herehow the chain reaction works:

  • Urban office workers are advised that they must or can work from home.
  • Many workers stop coming to the office, reducing the need for office space.
  • This reduced demand squeezes city budgets, resulting in service cuts.
  • Reduced city worker traffic reduces demand for cafes, restaurants and other services

that make cities desirable.

  • People move from cities to foreign countries, rural towns or elsewhere.
  • Companies are leaving the big cities for the small ones.
  • A painful period of decay ensues, leading to further escape.
  • The rise of solar power, satellite internet, and other technologies are encouraging remote, rural, and even isolated living.
  • Over a period of years, these trends reverse decades of urbanization, resulting in a more even distribution of people nationwide and less concentration in cities.
  • The decline of cities is cementing the trend towards remote working.

In ten years, it is likely that a considerable amount of basic human activity – business, government, school, health care and social interaction – will move online, and people will live where they want. without needing cities to earn a living.

The protracted transition has begun.

It will be bad for people who love their cities and great for those who view life in a city as an unwanted sacrifice necessary to advance in their careers.

Technology is behind this.

As organizations, the same technology companies that make products and services that enable working from anywhere are leading the urban exodus.

The future of work shapes the future of cities, as it always has.

The upside is that ultimately more people will be happier with their lives and jobs.

The downside is that cities are in for a world of decay, decline and near-obsolescence in the years to come.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.


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