Remote Work Is the Reason Most of You Won’t Have a Job in Five Years
White-collar workers face a new threat
White-collar workers will have no jobs in less than five years.
White-collar employees who have been boasting about their ability to work from anywhere are finding themselves in a tough place. Their employers are considering the inverse situation and saying, “If you don’t want to come back to the office, we will outsource your job for cheaper.”
Employees who said they were happy working from home because it makes financial sense failed to consider their employer’s perspective. Now, their employers are making another financial decision by outsourcing their jobs to overseas employees who are happy to make less than 20% of what they make.
This is a huge shift in the marketplace because companies haven’t yet internationally outsourced many jobs that require higher education, says Anna Stansbury, an assistant professor at MIT Sloan School who studies the future of work.
For the last 30 years, companies have outsourced many call center-type jobs or remote-first jobs like software design or back-end engineering, but if white-collar employees insist on working remotely, their employers are looking to offshore their jobs to cheaper countries. Stansbury warns employees they won’t be able to survive if companies ship these jobs overseas.
Stansbury adds, “If people that code for Google and Facebook could live wherever in the U.S. they wanted and [work] for a year and a half without ever going to the office, it seems likely that a lot of companies will rethink this longer-term and outsourcing those kinds of jobs that didn’t use to be outsourced.”
Most white-collar employees think they are protected and irreplaceable, so I ask them to think again. I believe employees should balance going to the office and working from home. They should ask for hybrid work where they can meet at the office at least two days per week because if customers can only deal with the company employees by phone and Zoom calls, what prevents their employers from hiring talent from across the ocean?
No one is irreplaceable, and no one is too good to be replaced. I know an engineer who thought he was irreplaceable, and his company replaced him with an engineer who lives in Eastern Europe, and the company saved more than 90%. The company shareholders can’t be any happier.
Employees lost four big battles, and they might lose the fifth.
This is a horrible trend for U.S workers because they have been losing power since 1980. Larry Summers, Former Treasury Secretary and a leading economist, says that in the last 40 years, American employees have lost four battles:
- Union lost its power and effectiveness. One-third of private-sector workers belonged to unions in the 1950s compared with 6 percent in 2021. This resulted in less money for workers.
- Shareholders demanded a bigger portion of the profits than employees.
- Employees’ wages haven’t kept up with inflation, so they are making less money than they made a few years ago.
- Workers lost a lot of protection on job sites and offices.
Larry Summers warns that if white-collar employees don’t understand the urgency of the moment, they will lose another battle. Their jobs will be outsourced overseas. This will be the last battle that they will lose because they won’t have anything else to fight for. Having their jobs outsourced will profoundly impact our country and the labor market.
So, if white-collar employees think they are protected, they need to think again. Employees have been losing power for a long time, so they need to organize, show up to the office, do their work, and prove that they bring more value than someone who lives 8,000 miles away and will make less money.
Employees might say that companies should consider the benefit of their employees, communities, and economy. Companies disagree. They believe that their main responsibility is to their shareholders.
Let me give you an example. If you have kids, you must provide for them. Now, consider mowing your grass. You have someone who cuts your grass for $100 and another who will do the work for $20. Who will you hire next spring? Be honest with yourself. Even if you like the person who cuts your grass for $100, think about what your kids can do with the $80.
Anna Stansbury and Larry Summers are not alone.
Stansbury and Summers are not alone. Many experts believe that outsourcing is a huge threat to white-collar employees.
Matthew Kahn, an economics professor at the University of Southern California, says, “Working from home has shown how easy it is to have fully remote employees and teams, and in an era of tight domestic labor markets with restricted immigration, moving jobs overseas is one common solution (the other being automation).”
This is not a new debate. Hiring people in India, China, and other countries to do most jobs that can be done remotely will be a great benefit to companies and stakeholders. However, this kind of outsourcing will be horrible for employees and the country, so I would like to ask the Federal government to stop giving any company that outsources jobs tax cuts.
Khan adds, “This offshoring is a serious possibility. However, firms that require some monthly face-to-face interaction at the corporate headquarters will be less likely to engage in offshoring.” So, as I proposed above, a hybrid approach might be employees’ best bet that will help them save their jobs.
Companies want to serve their customers and make money for their shareholders, and most employers believe employees are better when they come to the office.
Let me say something because most of you won’t read it. “I don’t think employees should be back at the office five days a week. A hybrid approach works better for both parties. However, claiming that it is more beneficial to work from home is not a good argument anymore.”
Employees need to reunite and send a clear message. Their message should be this: “We can work from home 60% of the time and show up at the office 40% of the time.” However, employees should also coordinate, so most of them show up at the office on the same days to collaborate or meet their customers face-to-face if needed.
However, if employees don’t want to compromise, most employers are done convincing their employees. Many CEOs are asking their employees back to the office or they need to find another job. By the way, these companies are doing much better.
Mat Ishbia asked his employees to go back to the office or quit.
The United Wholesale Mortgage CEO Mat Ishbia got fed up with employees who didn’t want to show up at the office, so he gave them an ultimatum, “I have no regrets. Employees are free to work from home, but they can’t work at our company from home. So there’s no hard feeling. It just means they weren’t a great fit.”
A year later, Ishbia said he had no regrets. The company is doing much better today, and its shareholders are happy about the CEO’s decision.
Elon Musk agrees with Mat Ishbia. Musk said, “If you’re not willing to spend 40 hours a week minimum in our facility, you can pretend to work someplace else.”
Tim Cook also wants people back in the office.
Tim Cook doesn’t want to become an average company. “As the world’s most innovative company, I believe we have a special obligation to get this right. So I am excited about the opportunity to come together in new ways and chart a new path in the era ahead.”
Tim Cook’s message is clear. Come back to the office, or find another job.
The bottom line is that white-collar workers who have enjoyed working from home for a long time may need to prepare for the possibility that their good luck could end soon.