In the US, remote work helps some in tech save money, find time for family

The response of the tech world to the pandemic varies widely in the US.
The response of the tech world to the pandemic varies widely in the US.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

WASHINGTON - For Ms Marianna, 38, who works in the marketing department of a financial institution, just commuting to work in New York from her home in New Jersey costs US$16 (S$21.60) if she pays cash and US$13.75 with an E-ZPass card - every day. Not to speak of the time spent on the commute.

Add to that the cost of grabbing lunch in Manhattan, and she easily spends US$20 or more per day.

Ms Marianna is a mother too; her daughter is six. For her, the logic of working from home is compelling.

"Although I end up working longer hours, working from home allows me to balance family commitments and not spend at least two and a half hours a day commuting," Ms Marianna told The Straits Times, asking that only her first name be used citing organisational rules.

Her employer does want to get back to normal office operations. This, she said, is not going down well with the staff.

"I think remote or at the minimum hybrid work will be of a great benefit for employers to offer for those who have families" she said.

"While the prospect of returning to the office has its advantages, with spontaneous social interactions and face-to-face meetings, modern video technology that evolved during the pandemic allows seamless and productive interactions as well as effective collaboration in a remote setting."

The response of the tech world to the pandemic varies widely in the US, where over half the population has been vaccinated with at least one dose, and almost half has had both.

Ms Julia Downes, 28, works for Essence Global, a digital advertising company whose clients include Google - on whose account she works.

Google, the company's most significant client, wants its employees to go to the office. Twitter, however, has decided to allow all employees to work from home, she said.

"We've been remote since March 2020, and they've (Essence Global) just announced they're ... giving us the option to phase back into the office from September," Ms Downes said.

Though she personally prefers personal interactions, she is conflicted - because she feels lucky that she has been able to work from wherever she wants.

"When we started out doing remote, I was pretty depressed about it because I really do enjoy the social aspect of the office," she said.

"Especially if I want to ask or have to talk about anything difficult or complicated with someone else, it's so much easier just to walk up to them, versus sending an e-mail.

"Video chats… for some reason are still not nearly as close to personal. So I did struggle with it, I would say in the beginning ... However… I do feel like I'm lucky now that I can work from wherever. I do enjoy the benefit of not having to be beholden to the 9-to-6 in the office every single day."

One 35-year-old programmer in New York just quit his job with a major league baseball organisation to join another.

One of the incentives: the new employer said he could work from anywhere.

"I just had to be in a position to travel when required to," said the man who spoke on condition of anonymity because he had not cleared an interview with his new bosses.

He and his wife are thinking of starting a family as well, and the new job opens up the possibility of living in a place of their choice.

"We don't know if New York is a place we necessarily want to live in the long term," he told The Straits Times.

"In New York everything gets expensive very quickly."