Remote Work Is the New Signing Bonus
Workers are trading jobs, enticed by the guarantee of flexible schedules and working from home.
Workers are trading jobs, enticed by the guarantee of flexible schedules and working from home.
After almost a year and a half of working from home, many white-collar employees say they are not willing to return to corporate offices full-time. Even whispers of returning have been enough to send some professionals searching for an exit—and plenty of bosses are welcoming them to new jobs with the promise they can work remotely, at least most of the time.
The push for flexibility is adding to the wave of resignations rippling through the U.S., recruiters say, and motivating many employers to re-evaluate their work-from-home policies. Canadian video-software firm Vidyard says it has seen a steep increase in job applications in recent months after emphasizing that roles can be performed mostly at home. And at Allstate Corp. , conversations about every new position now begin with the question: “Why can’t this be done remotely?” says Carrie Blair, the insurance giant’s chief human resources officer. “It’s a big workforce shift for us.”
Hardly anyone will return to Allstate’s offices full time, Ms. Blair says, after employees expressed in surveys that they didn’t want to and the company found most functions don’t require an office setting. Allstate recently decided 75% of roles can be performed remotely, and another 24% can be done on a hybrid basis, with workers splitting time between home and the office. The 1% who will go back to a pre-Covid-style office setting include some top executives and certain people in field offices with customer-facing roles.
Marc Cenedella, founder and chief executive of Ladders, a job-search site for roles that pay north of $100,000 a year, says greater flexibility is shaping up as a perk that companies can wield to poach talented people.
“Remote is going to be the new signing bonus,” he says. “Instead of dangling, ‘We’ll give you $10,000 if you sign for this job,’ it’ll be: ‘Instead of having to commute 35 minutes every day, go to work, and get in your car and drive 35 minutes home, you can work from your home office all the time.’ ”
Matt Croak, a 27-year-old software engineer in New York City, wasn’t actively looking for a new job earlier this year, but believed his consulting-firm employer could begin reopening its offices this summer in a hybrid capacity. So, when a recruiter reached out in April about an engineering role at an e-commerce company that would allow him to continue working fully from home, he pursued it. The job comes with higher pay and the chance to learn new skills, but it will also allow him to spend mornings reading in his living room in Brooklyn, instead of hunched over a subway seat while commuting 45 minutes into Manhattan. Mr. Croak says that, over the past 16 months, he has had more personal time for meditation and other self care—activities he wasn’t ready to give up in order to rush back and forth to and from an office again.
“I do really want to work from home permanently,” he says.
More American workers are quitting their jobs than at any time in at least 20 years, according to the Labor Department. One factor behind the trend, executives say, is that more employers are outlining their return-to-office plans in detail, giving employees a clearer sense of what to expect next. Apple Inc. recently said it wants most office workers to show up Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, with the option to work remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays. Other companies, such as Pontiac, Mich.-based United Wholesale Mortgage, are recalling thousands of employees to a corporate campus in the coming weeks, with a goal of getting close to 100% of workers back and resuming a traditional five-day workweek, according to the company’s chief executive, Mat Ishbia.
“You see tons of bold statements. Companies saying, ‘No remote work.’ Some companies are saying, ‘We’re getting rid of all of our offices,’ ” says Bret Taylor, president and chief operating officer of Salesforce.com Inc. In many cases, it is the employees who are primarily calling the shots. “There’s like a free market of the future of work and employees are choosing which path that they want to go on.”
In a recent survey of 2,000 workers commissioned by Prudential Financial Inc., a quarter of respondents said they planned to look for a new job post-pandemic, with many of those planning to leave citing work-life balance issues as among their top concerns. Half of the respondents reported feeling that the pandemic had given them more control in deciding the direction of their careers.
Jeff Simonds, a 38-year-old who lives in Burlington, Vt., began a new remote job this past week as a search engine optimization manager at Updater Inc., a New York-based tech company that makes software designed to help with logistical challenges when people relocate. Before the pandemic, Mr. Simonds worked in an office and says he never would have considered doing otherwise.
Over the past year, he says he appreciated being able to throw in a load of laundry during the workday or to begin his day from home earlier so that he could squeeze in a round of golf in the late afternoon, with his work completed. The new role came with a raise, and he says he considers the ability to work remotely as a kind of bonus. “It’s the freedom to kind of define my own workday,” he says.
His prior company, which provides marketing services and tools for auto dealers, had tentatively discussed returning to the office in September, Mr. Simonds says.
Though a number of companies are still calling workers back to offices, some bosses realize policies must shift to remain competitive. At First Advantage Corp. , an Atlanta technology company that employs more than 3,500 people and had its initial public offering this week, CEO Scott Staples says the company plans to reopen its offices in phases over the coming months. Some employees, particularly those in technology roles, will likely be able to spend more time working remotely.
“I think CEOs of the future just have to have a lot more flexibility on policies and procedures. It’s the only way you’re going to grow and survive,” Mr. Staples says. “There are certain roles where if a person doesn’t want to come back in for a variety of reasons, we can accommodate that, and I think that will make us an attractive employer.”
Technology giant Adobe Inc. said this week that its roughly 23,000 employees could spend 50% of their time at home once U.S. offices begin reopening in July, but also said that remote-work arrangements would expand for those who desire them.
“Our default work arrangement going forward for employees is to be flexible,” says Gloria Chen, the company’s head of human resources. Adobe won’t mandate which days employees go into offices or track how much time they spend in them. “Flexibility means flexibility,” she says.
Last fall, as Amy Culver’s employer began discussing plans to eventually return to the office, she found herself filled with dread. Without her typical 40-to-60-minute commute, Ms. Culver, a marketing copywriter, had more time to spend with her daughters, 11 and 16. She was able to continue horseback riding, her postwork outlet, even as the winter sun set earlier. Previously, she and her husband, who works irregular hours, might go several days each week without seeing each other. Working from home outside Richmond, Va., eliminated that issue, she says, and made it easier to spend time together as a family.
“I felt like I had a handle on everything for the first time in a long time,” says Ms. Culver, who is 43.
Though her manager told her she could continue to work from home even after the office in Richmond reopened, Ms. Culver worried about scrutiny and whether she’d be treated as a second-class citizen in the company, losing out on opportunities if she stayed in her basement workspace while co-workers returned. She began applying for jobs at companies that allow most employees to work remotely, and quickly had an offer that appealed to her. In November she started at When I Work, an employee-scheduling software company.
Today Ms. Culver typically works from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but says she has the autonomy to take her daughter to driver’s ed class in the middle of the day or return to a project later in the evening when she feels creative.
“Now that I work for a remote-first company, we’re all in the same boat. I’m not concerned that’s going to hold me back at all,” she said. “I’m on a team, but I still get to work from home, and I feel like that’s the best of both worlds.”
Other employees have chosen companies with defined remote-work cultures. Pallavi Daliparthi, a 36-year-old who lives outside Austin, Texas, took a job in May with GitLab Inc., a fully remote company that sells tools for software developers. Ms. Daliparthi, now a senior manager on GitLab’s sales team, had previously worked remotely at a large enterprise-technology company, and knew that in a hybrid environment, decisions could be made over coffee in the office that she may have missed while at home. “Whereas here, everybody really is remote,” Ms. Daliparthi says. “You know there’s nothing happening in the background, in-person somewhere.”
A lot of people say they hope to stay remote for years to come. Brandon Minaya, a 26-year-old tech-company employee, moved to a neighbourhood in Seattle late last year that has few links to public transportation, anticipating that he would no longer be commuting to an office in future roles. In March, he took a fully remote client-facing position with Intellum, an Atlanta-based company that makes education software.
Instead of taking an hourlong bus ride each way to a WeWork location, as he did in a previous role, Mr. Minaya says he often starts his mornings walking to a nearby beach, where he looks for seals and birds. Most mornings, he takes the time to brew himself a pour-over coffee, something he once reserved for weekends.
While searching for a new job, he prized companies that seemed committed to remote work. “I wanted to find somewhere where this isn’t something that’s going to be pulled back in six months,” he says. “Like: ‘Just kidding!’ ”
He has the flexibility to meet with colleagues in person, or to travel to the company’s Atlanta headquarters, he says. But “the fact that it’s not expected of me is kind of the arrangement that I want to keep.”
Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: June 27, 2021.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’
How far can an electric car really go on a full charge? What can you do to make it go farther? We answer these and other questions that EV buyers might ask.
Many people considering an electric vehicle are turned off by their prices or the paucity of public charging stations. But the biggest roadblock often is “range anxiety”—the fear of getting stuck on a desolate road with a dead battery.
All EVs carry window stickers stating how far they should go on a full charge. Yet these range estimates—overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency and touted in carmakers’ ads—can be wrong in either direction: either overstating or understating the distance that can be driven, sometimes by 25% or more.
How can that be? Below are questions and answers about how driving ranges are calculated, what factors affect the range, and things EV owners can do to go farther on a charge.
The distance, according to EPA testing, ranges from 516 miles for the 2023 Lucid Air Grand Touring with 19-inch wheels to 100 miles for the 2023 Mazda MX-30.
Most EVs are in the 200-to-300-mile range. While that is less than the distance that many gasoline-engine cars can go on a full tank, it makes them suitable for most people’s daily driving and medium-size trips. Yet it can complicate longer journeys, especially since public chargers can be far apart, occupied or out of service. Plus, it takes many times longer to charge an EV than to fill a tank with gas.
Testing by Car and Driver magazine found that few vehicles go as far as the EPA stickers say. On average, the distance was 12.5% shorter, according to the peer-reviewed study distributed by SAE International, formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers.
In some cases, the estimates were further off: The driving range of Teslas fell below their EPA estimate by 26% on average, the greatest shortfall of any EV brand the magazine tested. Separately, federal prosecutors have sought information about the driving range of Teslas, The Wall Street Journal reported. Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The study also said Ford’s F-150 Lightning pickup truck went 230 miles compared with the EPA’s 300-mile estimate, while the Chevrolet Bolt EV went 220 miles versus the EPA’s 259.
A GM spokesman said that “actual range may vary based on several factors, including things like temperature, terrain/road type, battery age, loading, use and maintenance.” Ford said in a statement that “the EPA [figure] is a standard. Real-world range is affected by many factors, including driving style, weather, temperature and if the battery has been preconditioned.”
Meanwhile, testing by the car-shopping site Edmunds found that most vehicles beat their EPA estimates. It said the Ford Lightning went 332 miles on a charge, while the Chevy Bolt went 265 miles.
Driving range depends largely on the mixture of highway and city roads used for testing. Unlike gasoline-powered cars, EVs are more efficient in stop-and-go driving because slowing down recharges their batteries through a process called regenerative braking. Conversely, traveling at a high speed can eat up a battery’s power faster, while many gas-engine cars meet or exceed their EPA highway miles-per-gallon figure.
Car and Driver uses only highway driving to see how far an EV will go at a steady 75 mph before running out of juice. Edmunds uses a mix of 60% city driving and 40% highway. The EPA test, performed on a treadmill, simulates a mixture of 55% highway driving and 45% city streets.
Edmunds believes the high proportion of city driving it uses is more representative of typical EV owners, says Jonathan Elfalan, Edmunds’s director of vehicle testing. “Most of the driving [in an EV] isn’t going to be road-tripping but driving around town,” he says.
Car and Driver, conversely, says its all-highway testing is deliberately more taxing than the EPA method. High-speed interstate driving “really isn’t covered by the EPA’s methodology,” says Dave VanderWerp, the magazine’s testing director. “Even for people driving modest highway commutes, we think they’d want to know that their car could get 20%-30% less range than stated on the window sticker.”
The agency declined to make a representative available to comment, but said in a statement: “Just like there are variations in EPA’s fuel-economy label [for gas-engine cars] and people’s actual experience on the road for a given make and model of cars/SUVs, BEV [battery electric vehicle] range can exceed or fall short of the label value.”
Pick the one based on the testing method that you think matches how you generally will drive, highway versus city. When shopping for a car, be sure to compare apples to apples—don’t, for instance, compare the EPA range estimate for one vehicle with the Edmunds one for another. And view all these figures with skepticism. The estimates are just that.
Batteries are heavy and are the most expensive component in an EV, making up some 30% of the overall vehicle cost. Adding more could cut into a vehicle’s profit margin while the added weight means yet more battery power would be used to move the car.
But battery costs have declined over the past 10 years and are expected to continue to fall, while new battery technologies likely will increase their storage capacity. Already, some of the newest EV models can store more power at similar sticker prices to older ones.
The easiest thing is to slow down. High speeds eat up battery life faster. Traveling at 80 miles an hour instead of 65 can cut the driving range by 17%, according to testing by Geotab, a Canadian transportation-data company. And though a primal appeal of EVs is their zippy takeoff, hard acceleration depletes a battery much quicker than gentle acceleration.
It does, and sometimes by a great amount. The batteries are used to heat the car’s interior—there is no engine creating heat as a byproduct as in a gasoline car. And many EVs also use electricity to heat the batteries themselves, since cold can deteriorate the chemical reaction that produces power.
Testing by Consumer Reports found that driving in 15- to-20-degrees Fahrenheit weather at 70 mph can reduce range by about 25% compared to similar-speed driving in 65 degrees.
A series of short cold-weather trips degraded the range even more. Consumer Reports drove two EVs 40 miles each in 20-degree air, then cooled them off before starting again on another 40-mile drive. The cold car interiors were warmed by the heater at the start of each of three such drives. The result: range dropped by about 50%.
Testing by Consumer Reports and others has found that using the AC has a much lower impact on battery range than cold weather, though that effect seems to increase in heat above 85 degrees.
“Precondition” your EV before driving off, says Alex Knizek, manager of automotive testing and insights at Consumer Reports. In other words, chill or heat it while it is still plugged in to a charger at home or work rather than using battery power on the road to do so. In the winter, turn on the seat heaters, which many EVs have, so you be comfortable even if you keep the cabin temperature lower. In the summer, try to park in the shade.
Going up hills takes more power, so yes, it drains the battery faster, though EVs have an advantage over gas vehicles in that braking on the downside of hills returns juice to the batteries with regenerative braking.
Tires play a role. Beefy all-terrain tires can eat up more electricity than standard ones, as can larger-diameter ones. And underinflated tires create more rolling resistance, and so help drain the batteries.
The meters are supposed to take into account your speed, outside temperature and other factors to keep you apprised in real time of how much farther you can travel. But EV owners and car-magazine testers complain that these “distance to empty” gauges can suddenly drop precipitously if you go from urban driving to a high-speed highway, or enter mountainous territory.
So be careful about overly relying on these gauges and take advantage of opportunities to top off your battery during a multihour trip. These stops could be as short as 10 or 15 minutes during a bathroom or coffee break, if you can find a high-powered DC charger.
Fully charge the car at home before departing. This sounds obvious but can be controversial, since many experts say that routinely charging past 80% of a battery’s capacity can shorten its life. But they also say that charging to 100% occasionally won’t do damage. Moreover, plan your charging stops in advance to ease the I-might-run-out panic.
Yes, an EV battery’s ability to fully charge will degrade with use and age, likely leading to shorter driving range. Living in a hot area also plays a role. The federal government requires an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty on EV batteries for serious failure, while some EV makers go further and cover degradation of charging capacity. Replacing a bad battery costs many thousands of dollars.
Your EV likely provides software on the navigation screen as well as a phone app that show charging stations. Google and Apple maps provide a similar service, as do apps and websites of charging-station networks.
But always have a backup stop in mind—you might arrive at a charging station and find that cars are lined up waiting or that some of the chargers are broken. Damaged or dysfunctional chargers have been a continuing issue for the industry.
Be sure to carry a portable charger with you—as a last resort you could plug it into any 120-volt outlet to get a dribble of juice.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’