Facebook announced on Friday that it will enable its employees to work remotely by the end of the year. A number of other technology companies have similarly grim forecasts of when it will be safe to get employees back into the office. Companies like Amazon and Microsoft allow employees to stay home until October. Spoiled Googlers no doubt mourn their in-house gourmet cafeterias and coffee bars.
Instead of asking workers to telework from their expensive rental properties in the San Francisco Mission District or Palo Alto – while the human resources department finds ways to fix the snacks – what if Silicon Valley companies encouraged them to to live and work in the myriad of affordable, livable cities that are desperately striving to attract and retain tech talent?
From fillet to … Tulsa?
At the same time that global technology capital has focused on a handful of North American cities (think San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Austin, or Toronto), the same cities have unprecedented crises in terms of affordable housing, traffic congestion, and costs of life increases.
Other cities that are trying to keep up are increasingly desperate to stem their brain drain and attract the talent and tax base needed to keep their economy competitive. Why do companies and investors, whose platforms enable virtual socialization, virtual work, and virtual everything, insist on limiting their talent pool to those who live in America̵
Tulsa, Oklahoma, recently renewed a $ 10,000 grant per person to attract remote workers who are willing to move for at least a year. Vermont launched a similar program in 2019, and other governments across the country, from Baltimore to rural Colorado, have set up tax credit and mortgage relief programs to provide similar support to new arrivals who are willing to take the risk of moving.
And many other cities have submitted expensive taxpayer and philanthropy funded offers to promote something that resembles the “next Silicon Valley”. Still, California still accounts for the lion’s share of global venture capital funding, and the founders are still paying large amounts of this venture capital to maintain the rent paid in the Bay Area offices and apartments.
The Amazon HQ2 rat race has shown how seriously cities across the country are ready to work under the old regime to create jobs in the office. As an extreme example, Philadelphia spent more than $ 500,000 on community efforts to attract the Seattle giant. But after the dog-and-pony show was over, Amazon still chose finalists (Northern Virginia and New York) who were already concentrating substantial amounts of human capital to the detriment of smaller metropolitan areas. In fact, the cities with the least room to maneuver spent a lot of money fighting the cities with the largest war coffers and still lost the battle.
In addition to the unicorns, cities across North America are struggling to anchor native tech talent as they begin to grow. Cities like Raleigh-Durham or Pittsburgh invest a lot via universities to educate students who inevitably leave for better prospects or higher paydays, but they also offer these youngest graduates the prospect of buying a house or affording this latte habit while save them for retirement. Only a few in the Bay Area will achieve this in 2020.
Tech can revolutionize the office again
Silicon Valley companies, from giants like Google to Series A startups, have the infrastructure to decentralize their core operations. With the ability for employees to work in cheaper locations, companies can control explosive wage inflation in Silicon Valley, enable workers to build families and lives free of rent in San Francisco or New York or state income tax payments, and pave the way for other industries indicate that this could benefit from decentralization. At the same time, they are doing their HR and finance teams a huge favor by opening their hiring to a national candidate pool.
The technology company’s employees have spent months at home with little hope of returning to the office soon. It is an important moment for the current Esprit de Corps to assert itself and to defeat any conservative nostalgia for the cooperation of the old office.
Rather than spending millions updating health threat offices that could ease off after renovations are complete, technology companies could save millions, eliminate inequalities, and do serious service to the American economy by making teleworking the future rather than the past. Also, it will be a long time before someone is promised back to the office with the promise of these free snacks.
James Stranko is a communications consultant specializing in cyber security, technology and PE / VC. Previously, he was a customer experience lead at McKinsey New Ventures.