Work from home thoughts

You hear it all the time.

Employers say “back to the office, everyone”.

But employees, lots of them, like working from home. Which annoys some of middle management. Not all, to be sure. There are lots of firms delighted with hybrid work, delighted with a smaller footprint.

But the economy is large, and bosses, management, and boards differ greatly in their preferences here. Not a month goes by without a puff piece in the AFR from either a REIT owner, suggesting how crucial colocation is for ideas and productivity, or an ASX 200 CEO saying “I need ’em where I can see ’em”.

Stylistically (and I construct a slightly exaggerated take below, but I have heard words to similar enough effect from other business unit leaders), the refrain is “oh, you want WFH, to be remote, well then, enjoy competing away your job and wage on the international stage, as I replace you”, says the boss.

But they don’t.

We’ve had several years of the pandemic, in which to study the effects of remote work. 30 years of labour market restructuring in 24 months. A huge natural experiment. That’s helpful when studying the effects of remote work.

The revealed preference in the work from Upshot, is that they (bosses) won’t & don’t. There’s a massive US worker premium, even when controlling for different categories of jobs (including those that don’t have any immediately obvious linkage to why being a US citizen would be especially relevant) and any effect of competing on the global stage is negligible to modest, both in terms of wages and the likelihood of getting the job.

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