With people already bolting from the Bay in droves, Reddit is among the first tech companies to pay workers the same salary if they move somewhere cheaper.
We do — and should — celebrate San Francisco’s lowering COVID-19 case counts and yellow-tier status, a testament to our pretty disciplined slogging through of seven months of shelter-in-place. But many of the crazy lifestyle changes we’ve endured may become permanent, or at least might not come back to normal for years. Consider downtown restaurants and retailers who’ve seen a precipitous drop in customers with no more Financial District/Mid-Market hustle or bustle, and now they’re seeing another one bite the dust in what could be a troublesome pattern.
The company in question is Reddit, which is doing fine and not shutting down or anything, but their Taylor Street headquarters may become a ghost town. The San Francisco Business Times reports that Reddit announced a very generous new work-from-home policy where they won’t slash your pay if you move thousands of miles away to a cheaper region. In a company blog post, Reddit said that “To support employees to live where they want to and do their best work, we are eliminating geographic compensation zones in the US. It means that our US compensation will be tied to pay ranges of high-cost areas such as SF and NY, regardless of where employees live.”
They’re the first big tech company to make such a move. At companies like Facebook and Twitter, who’ve instituted work from home “forever” policies, employees have to take a pay cut if they move to a cheaper region.
Reddit’s move could set off a domino effect across the traditionally pricey Silicon Valley. Robert Half tech recruiter Adam Bennett told the Business Times that employees “will say, ‘If I can take my current salary and move to an area with lower cost of living, I can increase my lifestyle.’”
And this has broader implications for the cafes, restaurants, food trucks, and “tech-adjacent” industries that are not tech, but depend on those well-heeled workforces’ lunch breaks and happy hours. The Associated Press has an excellent analysis of the damage that working from home is doing to the San Francisco economy, especially downtown, where the office vacancy rate has tripled in thus far in 2020, “to 14.1%, the highest since 2011.”
There is evidence of a San Francisco exodus, from plummeting rent costs to a sharp increase in real estate listings, to the Chronicle’s highly scientific analysis of online sales tax data proving a likely population decline.
But our favorite assessment indicating that the techies may be bolting comes from respected local writer Gary Kamiya. He tells the AP that all manner of high-end furniture and art is being left abandoned on the sidewalks of North Beach and Telegraph Hill, saying it looks like it had belonged to “pretty highly paid people.” He recently collected a pair of end tables off the street to give to his daughter, he says.
Image: @francistogram via Unsplash