Recently, Anyplace started listing its own apartments designed specifically for remote workers, called Anyplace Select. Each one comes with gigabit-speed internet, standing desks, ergonomic chairs, and second monitors. “If you don’t have a great work environment, then it’s not great to work remotely,” says Naito, who has changed cities every few months for the last five years. He believes that if services like his make the nomadic lifestyle easier, then more people will take advantage of the perks of remote work and make that lifestyle more mainstream.
Startups like Anyplace and Gailieo are targeting a specific demographic: people who have the option to work from anywhere, and who actually want to hop around from city to city. By most accounts, that’s not a lot of people. Even though the number of work-from-home days is expected to increase from pre-pandemic levels, surveys like Bloom’s suggest that it’s more because employers are embracing a “hybrid” model, rather than allowing people to work remotely all the time.
Many of the companies that led the way on remote work are now expecting employees to return to the office. Apple, for example, will reportedly require people to come in at least three days a week. Uber has a similar policy. Other companies, like Facebook, have afforded their employees more choice, but those who aren’t approved to work remotely will still need to be in the office half the time.
In that version of remote work, there’s significantly less globe-trotting. Americans have been settling in major cities, like New York and San Francisco, for the past 50 years. Some economists, like Morris Davis from the Rutgers School of Business, think the pandemic is unlikely to upend that pattern. “Will work-from-home undo these trends that we’ve witnessed for the past 50 years? My guess is no,” he says. One bit of evidence is the price of housing, which in the US has only gone up in cities and their suburbs.
However, Davis says, even a fraction of American employees going full nomad could be enough to support a cottage industry of remote-first services, including ones for flexible housing. “Maybe it’s only 2 percent of the workforce who wants to do that,” he says, “but that’s 3 million people.”
The vision does seem tempting. On the website for Anyplace, the nomad-curious can scroll through gorgeous apartments from Mexico City to Miami to Manhattan and fantasize about changing locations with the ease of changing outfits. It’s the less glamorous parts of remote work—figuring out health care or taxes, keeping up with promotion opportunities, or the exhaustion of constant travel—that might make workers reconsider the office.
Update 6-23-2021, 1:06 pm EST: This story has been updated to correct that 2 percent of the US workforce is 3 million people, not 5 million as originally stated.
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