Work from home has been an integral part of our life since the coronavirus pandemic when employees in numerous sectors started to work from home, and many continue to do so. It is no surprise as it is convenient, saves time, and in many cases, does not reduce efficiency but actually even improves it.
It is amazing to work from home. I wrote this article from my room; I woke up, made a coffee, and then I did not have to worry about getting into a presentable condition and traveling through the city just to do the same thing in the office as I do at home, only in a slightly more uncomfortable chair. If I wanted to, I could even wake up at 2 pm. and start working in the evening as I have no responsibility of getting to work on time.
But remote working would not have changed the world if it meant only writing my articles in underpants without shaving. As a resident of a capital city in Central and Eastern Europe, I am a direct beneficiary of this new situation, as the home office not only allows me to avoid commuting to an office 20 minutes away but also to work for a company in another continent. It means that I am out of the local wage competition and have the opportunity to earn a much better salary than what I could get from a Hungarian company.
Of course, employers are not blind or stupid either; they are aware that a Hungarian guy should not be paid as much as a Silicon Valley resident. However, there is no consensus on this issue from the corporations’ side yet. For example, in the US, giant companies like Google have adjusted the wages of employees who prefer to work from home to the cost of living in their area. So, while a remote developer in Seattle gets 100 percent of their salary, their colleague who lives an hour from the city can expect a 5-10 percent wage cut if they do not want to commute. Nonetheless, many companies do not implement such pay cuts.
Besides the relative cheapness of housing and essential everyday consumer goods, its good internet also makes Central and Eastern Europe a prime place to work remotely. NerdWallet has listed the thirty largest cities in Europe with the best and most affordable internet, and unsurprisingly, Western European cities are not ranked in the top. Bucharest is at the top of the list, where users should pay only £7.2 for an average internet speed of 232.17 Mbps, but the rest of the top 10 are also almost exclusively from the region:
|City||Monthly broadband cost||Broadband speed (Mbps)|
In such a context, we could think that all and sundry would move to Central and Eastern Europe, where our salary worth much more, and companies will hire workers from the region because even if they do not offer them as much as their Western European or American colleagues, remote workers, for example, in the Baltics, can still get a premium salary compared to what they could get from a local employer. However, this view is contradicted by the increasing employment of remote Western workers by Baltic companies. Estonia has employed 186 percent more people from the UK and 180 percent more Canadians than a year ago. And they are not the only ones; Latvia employed 120 percent more British than a year ago, while the figure regarding Lithuania and Americans is 153 percent.
The reason behind these numbers is not surprising. The Baltic region is digitally advanced, but London alone has a larger population than the three countries together. So, there are limited available experts for a specific task, and it can hardly be expected from a Western software developer to move to Eastern Europe.
However, not everyone feels that remote or hybrid working has a positive impact from a career development perspective. According to a 2022 Deloitte survey, 60% of women believe they missed important meetings, and half said that contact with their bosses, a key element of career progression, had sharply decreased since working remotely. On the other hand, it is important to note that not having to be physically present in a workplace reduces the vulnerability of minority and marginalized groups. There is less discrimination based on skin color and fewer sexually explicit offensive comments, which could lead to a more equal work environment.
Of course, there are differences in the employees’ working conditions at home. Home office can only work well if we feel comfortable at home. And it is not measurable in monetary terms how much a worker needs to meet their collages in person or how beneficial the framework given by the expectation to be in the office by 8 am every morning to an employee. Nonetheless, the new opportunities offered by remote working are quite positive. People will probably be more balanced, determined, and happier if wages converge globally because the cost of living determines the salaries in a region and if the possibility of working from home reduces the differences apparent in the office.