Will Remote Working Lead Millennials to Buy Homes in Affordable Remote Suburbs?

An anonymous reader shared this report from Fortune:
For eight years now, as millennials have entered their thirties and forties, also known as “homebuying age,” Bank of America has surveyed over 1,000 members of the generation once a year for its Home Work series. And for 2023’s edition… older millennials (age 31-41) are almost three times as likely to move into a house than an apartment, the survey found…

Migration patterns during the pandemic have clearly established that most homebuyers have wanted to flee big cities, with some “zoomtowns” such as Boise benefiting in particular. But the survey reveals something even more drastic. In a section called “suburban nation,” BofA reveals that 43% to 45% of millennials — of every age — expect to buy a house in the suburbs. “We expect the ability to work from home to remain an incentive for young families to seek out more remote suburban and rural markets where housing may be more affordable,” wrote the BofA team led by research analyst Elizabeth Suzuki. And remote work is still robust, they added.

Millennials are also looking toward the suburbs for wealth-building. A majority (two-thirds) of them believe that they’ll buy a home in the next two years, citing a return on investment as the number one reason for purchasing. The interest is pervasive across the generation, and maybe means that the suburb is in for a new and better revival. And a 2021 study from Pew Research Center found that one in five adults preferred city life, compared to one quarter of adults in 2018…

Millennials reported to BoA that the pandemic increased their likelihood of buying a home…

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Did the Pandemic Change Our Attitudes About Work?

Through 2020 America’s professional lives “had taken on the overtones of a secular religion,” argues a writer in the Washington Post, with jobs forming “a primary way to find meaning in the world and a crucial part of our identity…. Even precarious, low-paying gigs were valorized as ‘hustle culture,’ representing freedom to perform labor on our terms.”

But then…

Fast-forward to fall 2022. The number of people quitting, while down from the peak, remains at the highest level since the 1970s. White-collar workers don’t want to give up working remotely. Low-paying sectors such as the hospitality industry can’t find enough people willing to work for the wages on offer. Union organizing and strikes have been on an upswing…. [W]hat’s increasingly clear is that the March 2020 decision to partially close down the American economy shattered Americans’ dysfunctional, profoundly unequal relationship with work like nothing in decades. And even if there was great discomfort in a shutdown that severed almost every one of us from assumptions about how we earn a living, we also found an unexpected opportunity: to remake our relationship with the labor that fills our days….

All of it — the lockdowns, the disease, the sudden change in household functioning and how or whether we worked at all — amounted to a massive psychological shock, leading many to ask why labor looms so large in our psyches. “It really was an opportunity — an unwelcome opportunity — to take a look at the mad scramble that many of us have just assumed was normal,” said Kate Shindle, who as president of the Actors’ Equity Association represents a particularly hard-hit industry. Then, when the economy unexpectedly boomed back, Americans were poised to pivot. As many had recognized, it was one thing to seek meaning in work but another to see our lives subsumed by it — and for what? A less-than-adequate paycheck? A job that could literally kill you? “Maybe the poor safety net really kept people from analyzing the role of work in their lives,” David Blustein, author of “The Importance of Work in an Age of Uncertainty” and a professor at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development, told me. “Maybe the American work ethic was a form of survival….”

Over and over, when people spoke to journalists, including me, about why they made changes in their professional lives since March 2020, they told us they liked receiving better wages when they switched employers. But even more, they wanted greater control over the terms of their labor…. An increased level of remote work, likely in a hybrid format, is almost certainly here to stay, says Nick Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford University, who has studied the topic for decades. Employees want it, technological advances continue to make it easier, and companies that forbid it completely are likely to find themselves at a disadvantage….

The past two and a half years brought immense upheaval, and we’ll be struggling to process the resulting changes for years. But it’s undeniable that some of these shifts were long overdue. Workers are highly unlikely to forget what we learned: namely, that our jobs are much more flexible than we thought.

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Gartner Predicts ‘Digital Immune Systems’ and Virtual Metaverse Workspaces

Gartner, the prestigious tech research and consulting firm, has released its annual predictions for “strategic tech trends” in the coming year.

Forbes offers a summary. Some highlights:

Digital Immune Systems. [A]ntiquated development and testing approaches are no longer sufficient for delivering robust and resilient business-critical solutions that also provide a superior user experience. A Digital Immune System combines several software engineering strategies such as observability, automation, and extreme testing to enhance the customer experience by protecting against operational and security risks. By 2025, Gartner predicts that organizations that invest in building digital immunity will increase end-user satisfaction through applications that achieve greater uptime and deliver a stronger user experience.

Applied Observability. The path to data-driven decision making includes a shift from monitoring and reacting to data to proactively applying that data in an orchestrated and integrated way across the enterprise. Doing so can shorten the time it takes to reach critical decisions while also facilitating faster, more accurate planning. Gartner notes observable data as an organization’s “most precious monetizable asset” and encourages leaders to seek use cases and business capabilities in which this data can deliver competitive advantage.

“By 2025, Gartner predicts that 50% of CIOs will have performance metrics tied to the sustainability of the IT organization,” Forbes writes. But they also note that Gartner is predicting platform engineering — “a curated set of reusable self-service tools, capabilities, and processes” to speed up and optimize development. “Gartner predicts that by 2026, 80% of software engineering organizations will establish platform teams.”

They’re also predicting “adaptive” AI that can change after being deployed. But Forbes summarizes Gartner’s related prediction, that AI leaders “increasingly must bake governance, trustworthiness, fairness, reliability, efficacy and privacy into AI operations” to improve adoption and user acceptance. This will include tools that “make AI models easier to interpret and explain while improving overall privacy and security.”

PC Magazine offers this summary of a related prediction from Gartner: “By 2025, without sustainable AI practices, AI will consume more energy than the average European country, offsetting any environmental gains that AI creates by 25%.”

Gartner also predicts a phasing out of marketing that uses social media sites’ data about individuals — and that fully virtual workspaces “will account for 30% of the investment growth in metaverse technologies and will ‘reimagine’ the office experience through 2027,” writes PC Magazine:

[Gartner Fellow Daryl Plummer] said people need to reimagine how work will be done. He said that few people want to go back to the office full-time, but that virtual participants in calls often feel like second-class citizens. A fully immersive world is an answer to this, he said, with the interactive experience more important than information exchange. He believes metaverse experiences will be where people collaborate in ways they couldn’t do in the office, blurring the line between home and work.

By 2025, “labor volatility” will cause 40% of organizations to report a material business loss, forcing a shift in talent strategy from acquisition to resilience. Plummer talked about revamping the way talent is valued. He said people don’t want to do just one thing, but want to be “versatilists,” which makes them more valuable to the company and less likely to leave.

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Newest Remote Working Trend: Nobody Wants to Be in the Office on Fridays

The Washington Post reports on a “widely adopted, even codified” trend in recent months: people aren’t coming in to their offices on Friday.

“The drop-off in office work, particularly on Fridays, has led coffee shops to reduce their hours, delis to rethink staffing and bars like Pat’s Tap in Minneapolis to kick off happy hour earlier than ever — starting at 2 p.m.”

Just 30 percent of office workers swiped into work on Fridays in June, the least of any weekday, according to Kastle Systems, which provides building security services for 2,600 buildings nationwide. That’s compared to 41 percent on Mondays, the day with the second-lowest turnout, and 50 percent on Tuesdays, when the biggest share of workers are in the office.

“It’s becoming a bit of cultural norm: You know nobody else is going to the office on Friday, so maybe you’ll work from home, too,” said Peter Cappelli, director of the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “Even before the pandemic, people thought of Friday as a kind of blowoff day. And now there’s a growing expectation that you can work from home to jump-start your weekend….”

Some start-ups and tech firms have begun doing away with Fridays altogether. Crowdfunding platform Kickstarter and online consignment shop ThredUp are among a small but growing number of firms moving to a four-day workweek that runs from Monday to Thursday. Executives at Bolt, a checkout technology company in San Francisco, began experimenting with no-work Fridays last summer and quickly realized they’d hit a winning formula. Employees were more productive than before, and came back to work on Mondays with new enthusiasm. In January, it switched to a four-day workweek for good.
“Managers were onboard, people kept hitting their goals,” Bolt’s head of employee experience tells the Post. “And they come back on Mondays energized and more engaged.”

An adviser at the Society of Human Resource Management tells the Post that employers are trying new inducements to get people to return to offices on Fridays. “If you feed them, they will come. Food trucks, special catered events, ice cream socials, that’s what’s popular right now.” And the Post adds that other employers have also tried wine carts, costume contests and karaoke sing-offs — “all aimed at getting workers to give up their couches for cubicles.”

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Keychron’s Q3 Gives Mechanical Keyboard Fans Everything But the Numpad

An anonymous reader shares a review: In its early pre-pandemic days, Keychron made a name for itself with its series of affordable mechanical keyboards — including a few low-profile ones that remain a rarity to this day. Those boards didn’t necessarily appeal to enthusiasts, but were more than good enough for most mainstream users who wanted a different kind of keyboard. Last year, Keychron upped the ante with the launch of the Q1, an enthusiast-level, fully customizable hotswap keyboard with a 75% layout that had more than a few similarities to the heavily hyped GMMK Pro. Since then, Keychron has expanded this series with the 65% Q2, which received pretty rave reviews at the time and now the Q3.

The QMK-compatible Q3 clearly follows in the footsteps of the Q1 and Q2. It uses the same double-gasket design that should make for a relatively bouncy typing experience (though in my experience, there’s less bounce than I would’ve expected), and the overall design is pretty much the same, with the exception that it’s a tenkeyless (TKL), so you get a full keyboard with standalone arrow keys and a full row of function keys, but without the numpad. The body is made from aluminum and the whole unit weighs in at a hefty 4.5 pounds. In part, that’s because Keychron opted for a steel plate here. You can opt to get a bare-bones version where you supply your own switches and keycaps for $154 (or $164 if you want to get the optional volume knob), or a fully assembled version with keycaps and your choice of Gateron Pro Red, Blue or Brown switches for $174 (or $184 with knob). For the extra $20, I think getting the assembled version is a no-brainer, given that the keycaps and switches will cost you significantly more and even if you want to replace them, you could always reuse them in another project (because who only has one keyboard, right?).

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Two Tech CEOs Wanted Every Worker to Have a Permanent, Publicly-Available Job Performance File

“Two CEOs on a podcast casually proposed a shareable database of worker performance that would follow them between companies, forever, and encouraged listeners to create one,” writes Slashdot reader merauder128 , summarizing a recent article on Vice.

“HR professionals say it’s a terrible idea.”

Vice points out the podcast both the host and guest were CEOs of “data harvesters that package and resell data to other parties.”
Through one lens, it was a mundane musing between two CEOs of data companies talking about how awesome it would be to have more data on something. But in the context of experiments occurring in the tech industry around hiring practices, it was two influential CEOs encouraging other entrepreneurs to create a business that would be an absolute nightmare for workers, a type of credit score for workers that could be a permanent HR file that follows workers from one job to the next, and where a worker who struggles at one job may have trouble getting another….

It is also in line with a growing trend among tech companies that, spurred by work-from-home and hybrid work, are increasingly interested in quantifying employee performance. The most prominent example is Coinbase introducing an app so employees can constantly rate each other’s performances, a scenario even the normally cheery TechCrunch said “sounds rough.”
Over the last several years, there has been a boom in employee management software solutions such as Workday, Lattice, CultureAmp that are used across thousands of companies for performance reviews and other sensitive HR tasks. Technologically speaking, what Youakim and Hoffman are talking about is opening those confidential resources — or some condensed version of them that can be easily digested and analyzed — up to everyone.

None of these HR software companies have indicated that they have any intention of doing this.
The article warns that experts who have studied hiring extensively believe a permanent database database “would allow this complete, random mess to follow workers their entire careers, affecting their job prospects, earning potential, and their broader lives.” And the article summarizes a reaction to the idea from John Hausknecht, a professor of human resources at Cornell University. “It assumes people don’t change, that jobs require similar attributes, that a person’s experience at one company is relevant to another where they will be in a different environment with a different manager and different company culture….

“Or, to put it a different way, ‘Just because we can track it, collect it, and ask about it,’ Hausknecht said, ‘doesn’t necessarily mean we should.'”

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Companies Are Having Trouble Enforcing Return-to-Office Policies

NPR reports:
Just last month [Apple] decided to postpone its plan after more than 1,000 current and former employees signed an open letter called the plan inefficient, inflexible and a waste of time. “Stop treating us like school kids who need to be told when to be where and what homework to do,” they wrote. It was yet more evidence of the shift in the balance of power between management and rank and file, as demand for workers has hit record highs in the past year.

Companies are finding it hard to enforce unpopular policies and mandates when they fear their workers could just walk away…. Google maps workers, who are employed by the tech company Cognizant, also decided to fight back. They connected with the Alphabet Workers Union and signed a petition citing COVID fears, the costs of commuting amid $5 gas, and the increase in productivity and morale that employees have experienced while working from home…. “Our first day back to the Bothell office full-time will now be September 6,” the company said in a statement released on Thursday.

Even as some companies seek to bring back some semblance of office life, others are asking: What is the office for anyway?

In an iconic moment, NPR’s reporter also visited a management consulting firm, where their new human resources worker (who started in May) admits that “It’s hard to even fathom going into the office 100%. I don’t think I could do it ever again.”

Saturday the New York Times also reported that some corporate leaders “might find themselves fighting a culture shift beyond their control…. [Non-paywalled version here]

“If the pandemic’s two-plus years of remote work experimentation have taught us anything, it’s that many people can be productive outside the office, and quite a few are happier doing so.”
Even as the pandemic has changed course, there are signs that the work-from-home trend is actually accelerating. One recent survey published in the National Bureau of Economic Research found that employers are now saying they will allow employees to work from home an average of 2.3 days per week, up from 1.5 days in the summer of 2020.

It’s not just the office — it’s also the commute. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that almost all of the major cities with the biggest drops in office occupancy during the pandemic had an average one-way commute of more than 30 minutes; and most cities with the smallest drops had shorter commutes.

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