When Erin Archuleta wakes up, the sun hasn’t yet risen in her Michigan town of 600. She listens for the chirping of the birds and the occasional whistle of a train or hum of a tractor. She enjoys a hot cup of coffee from her porch that overlooks the nearby pond, keeping her eyes peeled for deer wandering across her 10 acres of land. It’s a big change from the pre-pandemic hustle and bustle of living above the sushi restaurant she and her husband owned in San Francisco. But it’s one she welcomed in February 2o21, as she got to spend more time with nearby family.
“Last weekend, I pressed leaves and put them in the window of my grandfather’s home. These precious moments are what keep me [here].”
Archuleta, who is the head of global policy partnerships at Block, is one of millions of workers who were allowed to work remotely as companies including Block, Twitter, Airbnb and Slack adopted permanent flexible work plans during the pandemic. Meanwhile, tech giants Apple and Google mandated workers to the office part-time this year.
As of late September, 21.6 million people in the United States worked remotely for five days, while 32.3 million worked at the office at least one day, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.
“Sometimes it’s hard to identify with a specific country,” she said. “I feel like the world is my home.”
Lazarin never imagined working outside of an office, but now she gravitates to the digital nomad life. The freedom has afforded her self-discovery and the chance to mold her life around cycling and travel — albeit while wading through ever-changing travel restrictions.
“I feel like I lived 10 lives in two years,” she said.
Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder and co-CEO of Australian software company Atlassian, moved to a farm two hours south of the company’s Sydney headquarters. He became accustomed to taking meetings and recording voice memos while walking across neighboring farms — sometimes capturing his surprise snake encounters. He also met employees who rented a house together for weeks so that they could barbecue, play their guitars and sing together after work. “We decided that … nobody had to come back to an office,” he said. “That reduced pressure.”
For Cannon-Brookes, allowing his employees to work from anywhere seemed to make the most sense. But he admits Atlassian had to do a lot of retooling to make the policy functional. It had to adjust salaries based on location, coordinate time zones so that teams could work together, create moments for in-person interactions and recruit in areas it hadn’t explored. While it’s still working social connection, Atlassian now has a larger hiring pool and happier employees, he says. And many got to be with family.
“There’s a number of people who’ve sent beautiful, tearful messages, especially older employees who have worked awhile and realized how unusual this is,” he said.
Atlassian software developer Christina Bell, 27, says the change allowed her to keep her job to spend time with her grandmother, who was diagnosed with cancer, in her homeland of New Zealand.
“We went to the beach, did puzzles together, had quality time,” she said of her grandmother who was an early supporter of her engineering interests. “In a good twist of events, my nana is in remission, and she’s still with us a year and a half later. I’m making the most of our time.”
Quality time with family is a common thread among several workers who moved thanks to new work policies. Michael Francis of Block and Pascaline Cure of Airbnb say flexible work allowed them to give their children some of the experiences they’ve treasured.