Approximately five months after the quarantine first started, the large majority of people in the US are still working from their homes. Although some states have relaxed their rules surrounding the stay-at-home order, a large number of companies prefer to stay on the cautious side and encourage their employees to continue working from home (or reducing their in-person office capacity). As a result, what used to be a sanctuary for our shoulders to rest upon after a long day at work is now intertwined with the work itself, dragging along the tasks and problems that we normally need to solve during work hours. Combined with the quarantine, one can easily lose track of work-life balance caused by the lack of structure in our daily lives. After all, humans are creatures of habits — and despite our seeming distaste of a conventional nine-to-five job portrayed by entrepreneurial side hustlers and social media influencers, most people function best when there’s an external pressure creating framework and structure surrounding their roles, routines, and responsibilities.
This is not saying that it’s impossible for a person to operate better when given more freedom to allocate their time. Those who have achieved managerial level or hold high positions in the corporate ladder tend to have less direction on what they need to do. When your job is to act as a fiduciary for the shareholders while actively managing the company based on various stakeholders’ needs, there’s no completed map that helps you reach the destination right away. Despite all that, even C-level executives still have some sort of framework that they can learn from, based on years of working experience and historical examples from the past decades.
Taking it a step further, I believe that entrepreneurs -or people that are able to become their own boss- are even better at managing their times in unstructured environments. Their obsession with getting what they want and their familiarity of not having a schedule or a roadmap presented, enable them to craft their own routine and stay disciplined because they’re solely responsible for their own livelihoods. If there’s one thing that I hope to learn from this work from home culture, it is to become more disciplined with my own time and constantly be aware of my goals.
Should I Relocate?
I never fully read Tim Ferriss’ “The 4-Hour Workweek”, but there’s one insight from the book that directly applies to the current world’s working environment. Essentially, if you have the freedom to work from anywhere in the world, it is wise to try your best to receive incomes in a stronger currency and spend the money in a weaker currency. A particular example of this is how my cousin outsources virtual agents to emerging countries for his business operation while receiving USD for the service that he provides. On a smaller scale, this translates into living in a cheaper state while receiving the same amount of salary. Obviously, such a monetary-driven decision is easier to be made when you’re young and single; but even then, there are concerns on how companies might start outsourcing their jobs to cheaper US states (or even cheaper countries) if remote work is proven to be working for their business.
Data from DAXX showed that the US’ average salary for Software Developer, one of the most feasible jobs to be done remotely, is 50% higher than Sweden in 2020.
If Facebook realizes that it can function at 85% productivity while reducing cost by 50%, why wouldn’t it pursue that path? These are legitimate concerns for people who were/are considering to relocate when their companies announced that they can work remotely indefinitely (or at least for a prolonged period of time).
Who doesn’t want to live the quintessential digital nomad life in Bali?
Surrounded by beaches, fresh coconuts, sunsets, and an amazing villa that charges the same amount as a studio apartment in Indianapolis. But I digress.
When Abhishek in Delhi is willing to take your Software Developer job for a 50% discount, the only thing that’s preventing your company from doing so is time-zone, the preconceived notion of a superior US education despite the democratization of high quality learning through the rise online learning, and your presence/emotional intelligence which impact is significantly diminished by being remote.
The following chart and data show that in most emerging markets, the ratio of a US average entry-level software developer salary to the country’s average annual income is higher than the ratio of its own country’s average entry-level software developer salary to the country’s average annual income.
Software Developers in emerging countries are willing to work for 50% of your current salary.
Ironically, despite the strength of tech stocks in the current pandemic, conventional jobs that depend more on relationships and networking might be less affected by the remote working culture. This includes companies whose stocks are considered as “value” and have been relatively underperforming in the past year, such as the banking sector. This also means that branding is going to be more important than ever. The reason why companies are still willing to pay millions of dollars to McKinsey is because … they’re McKinsey. Consulting deliverables are typically slide decks and reports, exposing their entire operations to the remote work culture, leaving brands and industry relationships as their final edge.
Overall, I believe that the culture of remote works will only work best if you are your own boss. Despite the trend and glorification that it receives, one needs to brush elbow with another in order to build proper relationships. In a corporate career environment, it is even more important than ever. Often times, the world is about who you know rather than what you build. Mayhap this trend will change in the future when virtual barriers can be alleviated by future technologies such as virtual realities.
See you around,