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The Winners and Losers of Remote Work

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Remote work came to the forefront like never before in 2020 and 2021, as the global in-person workforce essentially shut down. Those that kept their jobs were forced to work from home for months at a time, and some still remain away from the office.

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But the pandemic didn’t just disrupt the workforce; it actually caused significant ramifications for a wide range of industries. Here are some of the winners and losers created by the work-from-home revolution created by the coronavirus pandemic, some of which may be permanently affected by the change.

Last updated: Nov. 3, 2021 

Winners: High-Income Workers Who Dislike Commuting to the Office

The switch to remote work was actually quite a boon for those earning big salaries who formerly had long commutes. In addition to saving the time and money they used to spend going back and forth at work, these newly remote workers were able to stay in comfortable, familiar surroundings while earning the same or even more pay. For many of these types of workers, this combination of factors translated to a somewhat significant pay raise, in addition to a better working environment and more free time. 

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Losers: Low-Income Workers With No Access to High-End Technology

Sadly, it’s often the case that lower-paid workers suffer the most in times of dislocation, and the stay-at-home orders brought by the pandemic were no different. Many lower-income or service workers actually found themselves on the unemployment line, but those who survived couldn’t rely on swanky homes filled with high technology to do their work. Rather, they still had to go into an office, and in some cases, they had to shoulder an additional work burden as many of their colleagues were laid off.

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Winners: Second Homeowners in Desirable Locations

As remote work became more of a long-lasting solution during the pandemic, some of the perhaps unexpected beneficiaries were second homeowners in resort areas or other prime locations. Workers left big cities in droves and sought out new locations where they could continue to work while enjoying their surroundings. This meant big business for second homeowners renting out their properties, as demand for desirable locations grew. To some degree, this work-from-home migration helped push up housing prices as well, as workers no longer needed to be close to their offices and ended up buying homes instead.

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Losers: City-Based Owners and Businesses

Just as landlords and homeowners outside of city centers benefited from the work-from-home movement, those remaining in city locations suffered. Real estate prices in Manhattan, for example, dropped a whopping 17.7% in Q2 2020 vs. the year prior, the biggest in a decade, as people fled the city and looked for larger, more comfortable remote working spaces. Nationwide, businesses in city centers suffered as well, as there simply were fewer workers remaining to keep restaurants and shops open.

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Winners: Socially Uncomfortable Workers, or Those Who Feel Pressure in Office Environments

Not all workers feel comfortable in a traditional office environment. For the more introverted types who just want to be left alone to complete their work, the pandemic brought an ideal set of conditions. These workers could now hammer away at their computers in the privacy of their own homes, with no one looking over their shoulder or disturbing them in any way, as long as they could still remain productive. A permanent work-from-home solution is just what these types of workers have always longed for, and may continue to have going forward.

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Losers: Those Needing a Team Environment To Thrive

Pretty much ever since the workforce existed, management teams have believed that workers need to share a communal space in order to streamline the operation of a business. As tech companies evolved, the idea of a shared work environment grew in importance, the theory being that great ideas can be created and developed when sharp minds are in close proximity. For those that thrive in such environments, the pandemic was devastating. Working from home in isolation and keeping in touch via Zoom meetings and video conferences made it hard for these types of workers to feel comfortable.

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