The pandemic showed countless Americans the benefits of working from home. Employees love the concept so much they've apparently been counting on doing so indefinitely, as evidenced by where they've been buying homes this past year.
In a nutshell, people have been buying homes anywhere they can get more bang for their buck, such as suburbs, exurbs, and smaller urban centers like Austin versus the expensive coastal cities of New York or San Francisco. But what happens if or when employers want people back in the office?
Companies want employees back in the office
A report by LaSalle Network, a staffing and recruiting firm, found that 74% of businesses plan to bring employees back to the office this fall. This is the case even with all the logistics to consider regarding office sanitation, vaccination, and masking policies.
Maybe that's why getting employees back in the office is called "re-entry planning," which sounds more like coming back to Earth from space than returning to the office. And maybe it is like that. Many employers see remote work as just a temporary event made necessary because of COVID-19, but now people need to deal with reality and return to Earth, so to speak.
Hybrid work is popular
The LaSalle report also found that 77% of employers plan to adopt a hybrid approach to reopening offices. This can be accomplished several ways:
- Employees working both in the office and at home during the week.
- Hybrid teams, where some team members work full-time in the office and others work remotely full-time.
- Hybrid departments, where entire teams can work remotely while other teams are in the office.
What about those homes in the suburbs?
Not all employees are on board with returning to the office, particularly those who bought homes outside the city center and aren't relishing a long car commute or riding public transportation to get to the office. In fact, the LaSalle report found that 37% of respondents consider riding public transit to be a top obstacle. Plus, the report found that 65% of employees who can do their job from home prefer to do so.
So what will happen with housing?
People who bought homes in the suburbs and beyond probably won't be rushing to sell anytime soon just because they might need to return to the office. Most people who buy a home hang onto it for at least five years, often longer.
According to Jessica Lautz of the National Association of Realtors (NAR): "I don't necessarily know that anyone who purchased a home in the last year and a half -- and is enjoying the space -- that they suddenly would sell that property to move back into a city center." She does, however, think there might be an increased market for small condos in the city that first-time homebuyers might want.
Some backlash to be expected
Many employees will simply quit their jobs if they must return to the office. In a Bloomberg report, survey results of 1,000 adults showed 39% would consider quitting if they couldn't work from home, and of millennials and Gen Z, 49% feel that way.
Apple has a Slack group for "remote work advocates," which 2,800 employees joined. Around 80 people in that group sent a letter to CEO Tim Cook letting him know they don't want to return to the office. This came on the heels of Twitter and Facebook telling employees they'll be allowed to work from home forever.
The Millionacres bottom line
Just as television has evolved from a one-size-fits-all model to more personalized choices, so has the office world. Many people don't have a choice regarding going into work, such as frontline workers who must physically show up to their jobs. But many who do, particularly employees who are enjoying owning their own home, aren't going back, at least not daily, and that should keep housing demand in the suburbs and exurbs strong.