Moving and Remote Work

Several articles have discussed trends magnified by the pandemic

Statistically speaking, Idaho is one of America’s greatest economic success stories. The state has low unemployment and high income growth. It has expanded education spending while managing to shore up budget reserves. Brad Little, the state’s Republican governor, has attributed this run of prosperity to the mix of low taxes and minimal regulation that conservatives call “the business climate.”

But there is another factor at play: Californians, fleeing high home prices, are moving to Idaho in droves. For the past several years, Idaho has been one of the fastest-growing states, with the largest share of new residents coming from California. This fact can be illustrated with census data, moving vans — or resentment.

Home prices rose 20 percent in 2020, according to Zillow, and in Boise, “Go Back to California” graffiti has been sprayed along the highways. The last election cycle was a referendum on growth and housing, and included a fringe mayoral candidate who campaigned on a promise to keep Californians out. The dichotomy between growth and its discontents has fused the city’s politics and collective consciousness with a question that city leaders around the country were asking even before the pandemic and remote work trends accelerated relocation: Is it possible to import California’s growth without also importing its housing problems?

“I can’t point to a city that has done it right,” said Lauren McLean, Boise’s Democratic mayor.

From Louise

SAN FRANCISCO — The Bay Area struck a hard bargain with its tech workers.

Rent was astronomical. Taxes were high. Your neighbors didn’t like you. If you lived in San Francisco, you might have commuted an hour south to your job at Apple or Google or Facebook. Or if your office was in the city, maybe it was in a neighborhood with too much street crime, open drug use and $5 coffees.

But it was worth it. Living in the epicenter of a boom that was changing the world was what mattered. The city gave its workers a choice of interesting jobs and a chance at the brass ring.

That is, until the pandemic. Remote work offered a chance at residing for a few months in towns where life felt easier. Tech workers and their bosses realized they might not need all the perks and after-work schmooze events. But maybe they needed elbow room and a yard for the new puppy. A place to put the Peloton. A top public school.

They fled. They fled to tropical beach towns. They fled to more affordable places like Georgia. They fled to states without income taxes like Texas and Florida.

That’s where the story of the Bay Area’s latest tech era is ending for a growing crowd of tech workers and their companies. They have suddenly movable jobs and money in the bank — money that will go plenty further somewhere else.

What have you seen in your areas ? People moving in or out ? What trends do you forecast ?

66 thoughts on “Moving and Remote Work

  1. My initial anecdata contribution: A house near us recently went on the market; I noticed the for sale sign when I went for a walk. Came home, looked at the pics on the real estate co. website. 30yo house, 2800sf., 4br, 2.5ba colonial. Nothing done in the basement as far as I can tell. Same builder as our place. Asking price $400k. I was going to go thru the place at the open house planned for that Sunday, but that got cancelled. The place was under contract at 15% above asking (according to friends I ran into at Wegmans). So the thriving covid-driven real estate market is still alive and well here.

  2. Back when I was a teen in Washington state, everyone complained about the fleeing Californians buying up all the houses in Washington. There were lots of newspaper articles about it. Has there ever been a time when Californians WEREN’T fleeing?

  3. I am in one of the growth cities. There is construction all the time. I see constant rezoning to have denser housing at different price points. Lots of housing was being built pre pandemic but continued demand will depend on the local job market. I thought apartment housing was overbuilt even prior to the pandemic.
    Remote work has definitely impacted our city center as without office workers, many restaurants and bars have closed. The restaurants in residential neighborhoods are doing better with take out. Meal delivery services have definitely expanded the reach of certain restaurants. Last summer, there was quick turnover of homes that were fairly priced. There are no bidding wars here.
    It all depends on how soon we can get back to allowing more density in commercial spaces, because right now there is a lot of vacant new commercial space.

  4. I am very much with Rhett on this one. The pendulum always swings. Right now the pandemic has forced acceptance of telecommuting, both at the corporate level and the social level (i.e., it is now cool to be working from your laptop from a nice location, vs. being some loner geek or uncommitted slacker). While I am convinced that some people are going to insist on this new-found freedom, and some companies will continue to support it because they figured out it saves them money, many people will also be desperate to get back into the office and conclude that since working from the office works for them, it must be best for everyone. So give us 5-10 years, and I guarantee that we’ll have a “new” wave of corporate-speak theory about how the synergy of having everyone together in a single location promotes better results, and the pendulum will swing back.

    Also agree with MM. New Mexicans have been complaining about Californians driving up house prices since DH and I met over 25 years ago. I imagine it is worse/harder now, though; in the past, it was largely wealthier retired people coming, or a few folks at the labs and universities, since there wasn’t a lot of industry providing the kinds of jobs you’d need if you were trying to support a young family.* Now, though, if you can make a CA salary while living at NM prices, that could really open up a lot more influx.

    *Also, if you’re a lawyer, NM puts up barriers to make the move less appealing: you have to take the bar exam no matter how long you’ve been practicing, and that exam includes things like Native American law, which the vast majority of lawyers will have no familiarity with.

  5. San Francisco’s 35% Plunge in Rents Shows Effects of Tech Fleeing City…Condo Prices Drop 13% in San Francisco, All-Time Record Inventory Glut Piles Up

    In every article about this it seems like the idea of rents and prices falling and people responding to the new lower prices isn’t a thing. It’s almost like people still think real estate prices can’t decline.

  6. I think I was in high school when the “Welcome to Oregon. Now go home” bumper stickers were popular.

    “So give us 5-10 years, and I guarantee that we’ll have a “new” wave of corporate-speak theory about how the synergy of having everyone together in a single location promotes better results, and the pendulum will swing back.”


    And I don’t notice the Palo Alto or Santa Cruz real estate prices dropping much.

  7. “Has there ever been a time when Californians WEREN’T fleeing?”

    I recall bumper stickers that said “California Native” and “Welcome to California, now go home” but that was decades ago.

    Also, when I went to college, no one went out of state to school unless they couldn’t get in to a UC or a CSU. Obviously, if kids got into Harvard or the like, they would go, but anything else, there just didn’t seem a reason to leave. Most of my kids’ classmates, and two of my children went or will go out of state.

    I’ve known a number of people who have left for Texas, Idaho, Montana, Missouri, etc in the past few years. Some because of job offers, others because a new regulation was going to make it too expensive to continue their business. Some because of the cost of housing. After reading this post, I started totaling up the friends and neighbors who have left in the past few years. I came up with six families in two years.

    A couple months ago at my book club, the conversation veered to relocating out of state. About two thirds of the group had thought about it, about half had somewhat concrete plans. E.g., they had identified the state and had a time frame.

  8. LfB,

    I figure when the next tech bust hits the first thing they will do is lay off all the remote workers. It’s easier to do that because you just say people need to be in the office and if people don’t want to they can quit.

  9. I don’t notice the Palo Alto or Santa Cruz real estate prices dropping much.

    As crowded as PA/peninsula is, that’s nothing compared to the City. It’s a few urban places from which people are really trying to “escape”. Sure there are some who are moving from Palo Alto to Idaho but I think that’s taking advantage of the ability to telecommute and get tons of land vs their current postage stamp.

  10. “And I don’t notice the Palo Alto or Santa Cruz real estate prices dropping much.”:

    No, but my Bay Area nephew dropped his rent 25% and moved into a bigger apartment.

    “It’s almost like people still think real estate prices can’t decline.”

    This. I don’t really understand it. I remember in 2008 hearing how the national real estate market had never fallen and I was so confused, because I have been seeing real estate rise and fall in price my whole life (rancher/realtor daughter). Real estate is very much a local market. I remember asking my boss what I was missing, because I just couldn’t figure it out.

  11. Cass,

    out-of-town home buyers moving to Boise is 50 percent higher than locals’ — $738,000 versus $494,000.

    Tech worker X buys a $700k house and in two years we hit a tech bust and X is told either report to the office in Sunnyvale or quit. But he’s not the only one in Boise getting that message. So he puts his house on the market and finds himself getting offers for $560k. And he’s fucked.

    Is it normal that tech worker X has just never thought of that possibility? Is that how normal people think?

  12. In my immediate neighborhood, the real estate market is hot – things are selling quickly even into this winter, and prices are stable. Rentals are another story – there is a high vacancy rate right now as the university is a big driver of rentals, and they are still mostly remote for spring semester. That will change, but it doesn’t help the landlords right now – a lot of the rental buildings have been in families for a long time & I’ve never seen so many of them on the market. I think they are getting picked up by the professional rental companies for the most part or people who want to convert them from 2-flats to SFH.

    The hot & trendy neighborhood next door had gotten WAY overpriced in the last few years (IMHO), and there is a massive glut of condos for sale there. That area may have been due for a correction & I assume eventually it will just bring in the next wave of hipsters who are not as wealthy as the ones moving out to the burbs.

  13. Our market is fairly active and remains expensive. It seems like it is being driven by second home purchases that are used as the “primary” home during the pandemic. These buyers will have flexibility to be close to work when needed, with more space just 2-3 hours away. Housing is a big issue for local families/workers. We were lucky to buy and renovate when we did.

  14. Here diversifying the business base has been big. So, instead of attracting only one type of industry, it’s become more broad based, so there is less of a job hit, than if a single sector goes down. This has been very important along with developing our hospital research/teaching and our city branch of the state university.

  15. According to a new report by Zillow, these are the hottest markets for 2021:

    The coronavirus pandemic has changed not only how we live but where we live, and that has upended some of the usual trends in local housing markets.

    Now that some people can work from anywhere, they can also live anywhere, and they are moving to different markets for all kinds of reasons, from affordability to climate to ease of everyday life.

    Austin, Texas
    Nashville, Tennessee
    Tampa, Florida

    The three markets most likely to underperform, according to Zillow’s survey, are:

    New York
    San Francisco
    Los Angeles|twitter&par=sharebar

  16. The coronavirus pandemic has changed not only how we live but where we live, and that has upended some of the usual trends in local housing markets.

    Every day I hear of more and more people getting vaccinated. The pandemic will be a distant memory in a year. September if we’re lucky. The general level of status quo bias never fails to astound me.

  17. “Is it normal that tech worker X has just never thought of that possibility? Is that how normal people think?”

    I think it’s a combination of inexperience and MMM-style I-make-my-own-reality optimism/egotism. Denial and hubris are a powerful combination — it won’t happen; if it happens, it won’t be here; if it happens here, it won’t be me; if it happens to me, I’ll just find another job locally with all these other options. How many of these folks were even working during the first tech crash? That was over 20 years ago now.

    I will say that for Boise in particular, it seems to be a growing business hub — I actually have several clients with HQ there. So someone could look at the economy there and conclude that there is a plethora of job options to fall back on if this one falls through. Certainly, when we moved to CO, our decision was based on (1) quality of life, (2) the fact that the fab was the company’s most profitable,* and (3) the fact that there were 5 other companies locally whom DH could have gotten a job with. We were naive, because we didn’t understand that when cuts are needed, the folks in HQ are going to save their own asses, not the more-profitable asses halfway across the country. But we also just mis-read the risks of an industry-focused area, because it never occurred to us that the whole industry could collapse to the point that all but one of the fabs would close or make drastic layoffs.

    The thing is, we weren’t full of ourselves, we weren’t greedy, we weren’t living high on the hog. We were two very smart, well-educated adults evaluating all of the available options and making what we thought was the “safe” choice! But we didn’t have the life experience to understand that we didn’t know what we didn’t know.

    *Ironically, HQ was outside of Boston, but we thought that was *more* risky since there weren’t many other semiconductor-type job options there. Hahahahahahahahaha. And then my firm even opened an office there. Nostradamus I ain’t.

  18. Per Kim’s article wouldn’t that mean it’s a good time to buy in NYC or SF as prices are low and a good time sell in Austin or Tampa as prices are high? From the tone it sounds like most people think the opposite.

  19. Rhett – if “you can’t time the market” applies to stocks/bonds, doesn’t it also apply to real estate? (which is also much less liquid to boot).

    I’m not seeing price declines in my sister’s (Marin County) and mom’s (East Bay) neighborhoods.

  20. It’s been about 25 years since I left SV, but even back then there was a steady flow of people leaving SV for places like Boise, CO, OR, WA, and NM, all places where there were also tech jobs. I was part of a smaller flow of people who left for other areas, often where we had roots.

    As I’ve mentioned here before, many of them left at about the time they were starting families or about to start families. Not sure if I mentioned this before, but I think most of those who left, at least those I knew, were not native Californians; they’ve moved to SV for the jobs, typically when they graduated from college. It seemed to me that those who’d moved from places like CO and OR were especially likely to make that move.

    IIRC, WCE’s manager is a bit of an exception, as IIRC again, she grew up in CA. But IIRC again, her DH did not grow up in CA. They’re also a bit of an exception in that many of those I knew who moved planned to have one spouse become a SAHP. The other person we know in common also kept working, but she and her DH didn’t grow up in CA.

  21. LfB, when you were in NM, was that before Intel opened their fabs there?

    Back then, companies with fabs recruited on a national basis, so pay had to be competitive. I imagine a fair number of those moving from OOS, who were helping drive up prices, were connected to those fabs.

  22. About 40 years ago, when I interviewed for some jobs in OR, I saw some anti-CA bias as well, which seemed to work in my favor as I wouldn’t be moving from CA had I taken any of those jobs.

    A few of those who interviewed me were lifelong OR residents who had mixed feelings about having to bring in people from OOS.

  23. Finn — no, it was after; in fact, one of DH’s friends from his Sandia days worked there. DH never had the interest in going the commercial silicon route; his Ph.D was in gallium arsenide, and he thought smaller companies would provide a quicker path to advancement.* As a result, he has done a lot of different specialty things over time, from cellphone chips to solar cells to power systems and now advanced computing stuff he can’t tell me about. We moved to NM from CO because he got a job at a smaller company through his old Sandia contacts. We did consider the Phoenix area, because of the multiple fabs there, but BOY I didn’t want to live in that heat, and he didn’t want to go BigTech, so we were glad when the NM option came through.

    *He was right, but probably not in the way he envisioned: he kept shutting down fabs, but somehow he always managed to get new jobs that were better than the one he’d just lost.

  24. My DH says he has gotten a couple of jobs offers based in Texas. I am not moving at this point.

    As for going into the office, my workplace was slowly losing people to WFH arrangements even before the pandemic. It was stealth because the people coming into the office mentioned the office more. Some of the people coming into the office liked the camaraderie or their homes/stage of life was such that they couldn’t WFH comfortably. I am sure there will be back to the office but not for everyone.

  25. LfB, I didn’t know your DH worked with GaAs; now I’m even more interested in talking to him at the Totebag cocktail party (or totebag apres ski?).

    I’ve done minimal work with GaAs, but worked with other compound semiconductors, and my company had an annual conference where there were a lot of papers presented by the GaAs folks, which included a college buddy. DW also did circuit design incorporating GaAs devices.

  26. Coincidentally, I just received a Real Estate update today. Here are some excerpts for the South Coast of Santa Barbara County which includes the areas of Carpinteria/Summerland, Montecito, City of Santa Barbara, Hope Ranch, and Goleta and a population of around 211,000 people.

    At least 43% of Buyers are coming not only from out of the County, but also many from out of State and a few from out of the Country.

    Open houses and Broker Caravans are not allowed and strict safety protocols are in place for any in-person by appointment only showings of listings. Due to virus concerns and stay-at-home orders, many Sellers have completely cancelled their listings for a time and this only exacerbated the lack of housing inventory on the market.

    Inventory statistics indicate that Santa Barbara, Hope Ranch and Goleta are in a feverish Seller’s market with a month or less of inventory. Carpinteria/Summerland is in a heated Seller’s market (1.3 months of inventory) and Montecito is closest to a fairly balanced market (3.9 months of inventory).

    Historically the highest Year-to-Date median sale price recorded on the Santa Barbara South Coast was recorded in 2007 at $1,031,500. The median sales price was $1,200,000 for all of 2020. In January 2021 the median sales price was $1,400,000. The January 2021 average sale price was $2,222,500, up from $1,955,284 in December and now is 24.3% above the highest historical average sale price recorded in 2007 at $1,787,898.

  27. As for going into the office, my workplace was slowly losing people to WFH arrangements even before the pandemic.

    I think the next big step for corporate America is recruiting people remotely. I get a bunch of e-mails about full time jobs and they all say, “must relocate.” It doesn’t seem like corporate America is ready to recruit folks who can’t come into the office regularly. Do you think that will ever change much? I could see it changing a little…. But not by much.

  28. I was at the Kroger pharmacy today to try to get some Sudafed. I failed. But I asked them if they were doing the vaccines and they said yes. I wanted to have a fit. THERE WAS NO ONE THERE. No one in line. No one in back getting a shot. A child-care worker came up and asked for the vax, trying to show her paystub and some other evidence of her job, and they turned her away. JUST GIVE HER THE VACCINE. Jeez louise.

  29. JUST GIVE HER THE VACCINE. Jeez louise.

    I was shocked to read that 54% of Americans think it’s better for vaccine to be wasted than for people to get vaccinated when it’s not their turn. Shows how different the crew here is. I think everyone agreed that it’s better to not waste vaccine under any circumstances.

    In MA the governor was getting grief because our vaccination rate was low. So they said anyone accompanying an elderly person getting a vaccine could also get vaccinated. Unsurprisingly the next thing was people putting ads on Craig’s List offering $200 to drive old ladies to the vaccine site. Obviously that what was going to happen and presumably that was the goal. People are irate!

  30. Rhett – In general, I see definite changes from when I first started working. When I started, there was never a good reason why one was late, had to take an unexpected day off, had to WFH. At one time I tried to go to work after a snowstorm had almost completely shut down everything.
    I didn’t mention anything about my personal life for years. It is only in recent years, I have felt comfortable mentioning my family. Now, there are even more layers with the pandemic, illness, death, equitable treatment of employees, kids education and even sick pets get a mention. It’s been 25 years since I have been in the workforce.

  31. Back in November/December DH had an interview with Amazon. It didn’t move beyond the first, maybe second interview because he was not willing to relocate to Seattle. He got a call a few weeks later from the hiring manager asking if he was still interested and if there had been any change in his decision to not want to relocate. Some people are just not willing to let people be remote.

    One of my company’s offices is a rural location. When it was opened there was much fanfare about revitalizing this area of the rural American and how affordable (cheap!) housing was. Several people relocated there, in addition to hiring locals. In the last several months many people who work out of that location have now moved away, to bigger cities, and have the pandemic to thank. They can keep their job and get out of this area. It’s the reverse of people moving to Idaho.

  32. Louise,

    I’ve seen the same thing. But for this to really work as described in the article hiring managers would have to be willing to hire exclusively remote employees*. That seems like a big hurdle.

    * And, now that I think about it, hiring managers would have to not give preference to local candidates.

  33. @Louise – I agree completely. Things have changed slowly over the past 25 years, and I don’t think we will go all the way back to The Way It Was in February 2020. I’m not saying that everyone will embrace WFH forever – people will go back to offices at least sometimes, people will travel again, and there will be large conferences and boondoggles. But I think this is going to cause a permanent shift to companies embracing even more flexibility – out of cheapness and because employees will demand it. (talking about white collar work here of course) I also think that it is going to push to even worse office environments – more hoteling, less privacy – because when you “need” it, you can work “flexibly”.

    That’s different from hiring and training people who live in different states though.

    I do not know a single person who has relocated permanently or even thought about it as a result of this pandemic. I know lots of people who have temporarily worked from 2nd homes, rentals, friend/relative’s houses. I know a few people who accerlated moving to the suburbs. But nothing drastic or permanent.

  34. As productive as our team has been working 100% remotely for 11months as of tomorrow, and we have been highly productive, I still think we’re more productive when we’re in the office. Easier to just chat about an idea, way to solve something. We’ve all gotten good at just picking up the phone (actually on MS Teams, which I think is a really good tool) and chatting. We almost always turn the video on, even if we’re eating…it’s like if you’ve got your office door almost all the way shut so you can have lunch and someone comes in, there’s really no expectation among our group that you’d stop eating. Just how we are.

    What I think will really change is the idea of “I’m going to work from home today/this morning, etc” will be readily accepted across a lot of industries/companies/managers once this imposed wfh period ends. The default is likely to be work in the office, but if you need to do a day at home, or just want to do a day at home, that’ll be just fine.

  35. ” I know lots of people who have temporarily worked from 2nd homes, rentals, friend/relative’s houses.”

    Yes, this wfh flexibility is great. My best friend lives in Seattle and he’s having knee surgery in the next couple of weeks. Twice divorced, not from that area originally, kids grown and flown, not much vacation early in careers, not really in wfh-able jobs. So it looks like I’m going to be his initial care giver for the first 2 weeks post surgery. And, even though it’s our busiest time of the year we did it successfully remotely last year, so we’ll be even better at it this year. I’m just waiting to find out the surgery date and when he should be getting out of the hospital (non-routine knee replacement for a bunch of reasons) before I book my ticket. But I expect I’ll be able to be there a couple of weeks without taking more than a couple of days’ vacation time. Not that that’s an issue; I have gobs in my bank and actually need to use some.

  36. Rhett – at my workplace interviews were conducted over the phone for many positions, now they are being conducted over Zoom/Skype. Over the years, employees have relocated to different areas and still managed to keep their jobs. There are some positions where people have to be in certain locations but lots of jobs can be done remotely with no one being the wiser.
    The one thing that still exists is the time zone difference.

    Looking back, things started changing after 9/11. As part of business continuity, employees had to be able to work from alternate sites or somehow connect to the network. That’s when the rank and file were issued laptops.

  37. Thanks, Fred.

    From my previous post, you can see that it is very expensive to live here, so prior to the pandemic we did recruit positions that had remote work as an option. Not all of our positions were eligible for remote work, and not all of our supervisors were comfortable with their staff being remote. Most of our remote employees weren’t recruited as remote, but rather started onsite and when they needed to move out of the area for a variety of personal reasons, they were allowed to go remote in order to be retained. My boss wanted to transition 30% of our workforce to remote in order to free up space for other groups.

    We’ll see how many people we repopulate in the office post-pandemic.

  38. The company I work for set up an office in Boise a few year’s ago to take advantage of the lower salaries. We can petition to work remotely but part of the deal is you have to let them know where you will be living and they will adjust your salary. No SF Bay area salaries to work in Boise.

  39. Rhett – at my workplace interviews were conducted over the phone for many positions, now they are being conducted over Zoom/Skype.

    But have hiring managers said to recruiters, “We need a Compliance Analyst III but we don’t care where they live.” And when the recruiters came back with, “Here’s Bob who works at Fifth Third in Cincinnati. He’s a great fit.” Did they say, “Great!” It’s one thing if Bob works in Charlotte and his wife gets a new job in Cincinnati and they let him work remotely. It’s another thing to hire Bob in Cincinnati with the expectation that he will work from home permanently.

    From what t I’m seeing, very few companies are willing to hire exclusively remote workers.

  40. Although… now that you mention it. I’ve seen a bunch of job postings that say you can work remotely now but you’ll have to relocate in the future. I figure if they hire you, train you, brought you up to speed and you’re doing a great job, I doubt they are going to go through the hassle of firing you if you say you can’t move to Tampa.

  41. Would love to read and comment, but we have no power (no heat), but do have hot water and can light the stove. No power for 14 hours and not likely to get any for at least another 24 hours. House in the low 50s. Others have all utilities and others have none. A memorable February in Austin, Texas

  42. Rhett – there were certain cities that were preferred locations in each area – so for the West Coast, it could be Austin, Phoenix or Salt Lake City. So, if Bob was in either of those three cities great, he was hired. At first, it used to be that Bob, had to report to a office location even if he was the only one on his team in that city. But over time Bob, discovered that his manager didn’t care if he worked from his basement or went into the office location. Some people went into the office to have others around them during the work day and not feel cut off in their basements.

  43. AustinMom (Becky, Houston) – I hope power is restored soon. Here, we had so much rain, that my DD says we have London weather. It’s cold and damp.

  44. @Rhett – I agree with you on the fully remote workforce – I don’t see that becoming anything near widespread. That said, our office is already talking about going approx 50/50 (which is perfect if you ask me). So maybe over time that will change too.

    We do have quite a few fully remote employees, but most of them moved after starting in an office, like you said.

    I’m sorry for our Texas posters. I can’t even imagine. Houston???? When is the last time it even snowed in Houston?

  45. “when I went to college, no one went out of state to school unless they couldn’t get in to a UC or a CSU. “

    Back when I was in SV, a lot of local kids also stayed home to go to JCs. I worked with several people who started at places like Foothill or Evergreen and then transferred to a Cal States.

  46. “Looking back, things started changing after 9/11. As part of business continuity, employees had to be able to work from alternate sites or somehow connect to the network. That’s when the rank and file were issued laptops. “

    IME change started a lot earlier. In the 80s, I saw people being issued PCs to take home to work. In the late 80s, we started using internal email, and that, combined with dialup access, really ramped up working from home. Back then it was more like starting the workday at home, reading and responding to email, then coming in to the office when traffic was lighter.

    In the late 90s, as the tech bubble was rapidly expanding, office space shortage led to a lot of remote working, both from homes and from remote offices.

  47. @Finn – The first time I was issued a company laptop that could actually access company servers and tech was 2007. I did have one in the late 90’s to do my training class work, but I couldn’t even check my email on it. And it had a dial-up modem.

    In the late 80’s, my mom would use the old style modem that actually was a wall phone handset set on the modem device to log into her work mainframe (VAX? As400? I don’t know.) But she was in IT at the time. We were outliers even having personal computers at home. SV was different I’m sure.

  48. We did the OSU visit today. We had to do a self guided tour but it gave a nice overview of the campus. There weren’t a whole lot of people around with most classes online. We spent some time wandering around town, which was also pretty deserted. Amazing it hardly rained today and we even saw the sun.

    We came back to Portland and speaking of places that aren’t used to winter weather, it’s a total mess from the snow a couple of days ago.

    Anyway, DD hasn’t said much about it, but I think she’s going to go with MSU. But we’ll see.

  49. Finn – if you worked in tech it was different. For the rest of us the slowness of the internet meant that opening any large file from the network took ages. Similarly saving files to the network was difficult. I would download files to my hard drive, work on them at home and only when back in the office upload them to the network. This is not the case now at least for me. I know there are places with bad internet connections.

    Now however, in the absence of on site tech support, if something goes wrong with your laptop which tech support can’t fix over the phone, they ship you another laptop.

    The Texas cold makes me think that this is something that lots of businesses will have to think about in terms of business planning. Lots more businesses are now in Texas than before.

  50. “In the 80s, I saw people being issued PCs to take home to work. In the late 80s, we started using internal email, and that, combined with dialup access, really ramped up working from home.”

    My favorite “good intentions, lack of a clue” work story was one year in the early ’90s, my firm decided to replace the traditional Christmas ham with a $150 check that could be used for any sort of tech support something-or-other. IIRC, this was just after they had switched from the old Wang systems to a MS/Wordperfect environment, and they wanted people to be able to work from home if needed. So I went out and bought a modem. It cost me $300. AND of course my $150 was taxable. So my Christmas “bonus” cost me $200!

    And then I pretty much never used it anyway, since I lived less than a mile from the office and could walk in easily. And then I left less than a year later.

  51. The earliest example of working remotely that I can remember was that my father used to run huge simulations on the Oak Ridge supercomputer from his office in KY, back in the 80’s. Yes, the Internet did exist then.

    I started doing a lot of work from home in the early 90’s. The Unix GUI XWindows had come out in the late 80’s and it was designed inherently to allow displays across a network. You could open a graphical application on a Unix server and have it display to another Unix machine, which might be anywhere. So I bought a PC in 1993, loaded it with Linux, and then did much of my work from home, connecting to the Solaris machine in our campus lab. I was doing a lot of work with a solid modelling system that was totally graphics based, and I had no problem using it from home. I even did a lot of work with it when I was over in Germany. I just remote logged into the Solaris machine, started up the solid modelling system, and issued the little connecton string on my local machine. Volia, a window popped up on my local screen. Of course,this was all highly highly insecure!

    When I worked at the software company, we were also very set up to work from home, We just used remote desktop or whatever the equivalent was back then. When I went to the healthcare IT company, no one was allowed to do this, and I could not imagine why. That place was so out of date in every way. Their mindset was somewhere back in 1985

  52. How are our Texas totebaggers doing this morning? My FB TX friends and relatives have been recounting their very chilly stories about cold homes. One news report from Houston told about a driver who rammed his car through the electronic gate to enter the apartment complex.

  53. Happy Mardi Gras everyone!

    The weather experts were calling for 9-12″ for our area. We got 3. Enough for my plough guy to come, but not enough to cause anything here to stop/close.

    Traditionally DW’s office does donuts for everyone on Mardi Gras, so I went out and got some from the good donut place in the city after I shoveled out the end of our driveway and the front walk.

  54. I cannot imagine the cold in TX, etc. places that are not prepared for it. I hope everyone is doing ok.

  55. I think I got my first laptop in 2008, but it may have been in 2011. I didn’t get a blackberry until that time too, and then work took them away in a cost cutting move. Then they issued us iphones a few years later.

    In some ways I loved being so disconnected when the day ended. However, it was an issue for customer service, and it really was a problem when clients realized that you couldn’t be reached. It is amazing to think that was only ten years ago. It was a big deal when laptops were issued. And until the pandemic, they were not issuing laptops to non-exempt employees.

  56. I feel for our TX folks and seriously hope everyone is safe. But I suspect this is going to be more and more of a problem across the country. Particularly with natural gas, you can’t just flip a switch and get more gas when you need it — you need pipeline capacity to get it there. FERC won’t authorize a new pipeline unless the company can prove it has customers for all of the capacity, so there’s no “spare” capacity sitting out there in the middle of winter (when demand is highest). And then even when FERC does authorize a new pipeline, there are years of legal challenges to the pipeline itself, because everyone wants power, but no one wants a compressor station in their backyard or any of the environmental impacts that go along with it (and it certainly doesn’t help that the people who feel the impacts from NG production and transport are far removed from the people who get the benefits). So even if the pipeline gets built, it’s going to be years and years after it is actually needed.

    I love renewables, and I think it’s awesome that they have become an actual significant contributor to our power grid (we’ve signed up for a renewable plan ourselves). But they work effectively only when you have a reliable backup for the times nature lets you down. Natural gas peaking plants are the best option for that — coal and nuclear are very effective for baseload, but NG turbines can come online much more quickly and adjust to demand more easily. But they need fuel! And the owners need enough of a financial incentive to build and maintain a plant that isn’t going to run that often and so can’t make up for lower rates with higher volume.


  57. In 1984, Ziff-Davis was just starting to let some of the indexers take their Apple 2e computers home with them, because indexing is a perfect work-from-home job. But they made you sign your life away, and at one point accused one of my coworkers of stealing his computer (he hadn’t), and it was SO MUCH DRAMA. Plus once a week you had to come in to drop off your floppy disks full of data. I didn’t bother to try it and left for grad school shortly after the program started.

  58. Temperatures are low enough to trigger so-called freeze-offs, when wells shut down because of liquids freezing inside pipelines. Texas facilities operated by pipeline companies DCP Midstream LP and Targa Resources Corp. were reported shut on Thursday due to the cold. Enbridge Inc. said it was limiting requests to transport gas on a pipeline stretching from Texas to New Jersey.

    And apparently one of Texas’s nuclear plants had to shut down due to frozen pipes.

  59. I heard about the ice buildup in TX in addition to the snow – hope everyone is OK down there!

    In 2002, our apt building had whatever high-speed internet was at that time (cable?), and I was able to log in to Citrix and my work system just like I can now – I see no difference in speed or access, and the system is now slower after we got the “new” office 365 system in 2019. We have 2 factor authentication now but that’s about it!

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