Will Facebook’s new remote working rules kill Dublin?
As a city, Dublin faces big questions over Facebook’s decision to start letting its Irish workforce live abroad.
. Will other tech companies follow suit?
2. Does this signal an exodus of tech workers from Dublin?
3. What impact, if any, will this have on rents, house prices and the local economy?
For most people who don’t work in tech, this is the third question that sparks the most discussion.
On paper, this looks potentially seismic.
If 10% of Facebook’s 6,000 Irish employees were to live in France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland or the UK, it would have an immediate impact on rents within a three-mile radius. kilometers from the company’s current headquarters in the docks.
Now imagine that other tech companies are following suit. If 10% of the overall Irish workforce of Google (8,000 people) or Microsoft (3,000 people) or Amazon (1,500) decide to do the same, a significant portion of premium demand could be withdrawn from the Dublin housing market.
They don’t even have to leave the country to achieve the same effect – a move to Waterford, Wicklow or Belmullet would have a similar impact on property prices in Dublin.
And that’s just the tech industry.
Since companies like Facebook and Google tend to be the first players in workspace and human resources policy, the effect could, in theory, be even larger in other sectors.
“I think what we’re seeing now might be a taste of things to come,” says Dee Coakley, CEO and co-founder of Boundless, a company that builds businesses to employ people overseas. Coakley says demand for his company’s services started in the tech sector, but has now spread to a much wider range of industries.
It is not just evangelists working remotely who are watching with interest.
The caricature of the wealthy tech workers packing the city’s best apartments and houses is increasingly a point of discontent.
Job advertisements from the largest multinationals are now regularly greeted with moans and cheers.
Indeed, scratch the surface in any exchange on the subject and you have a good chance of hearing an ugly populist version of, “What’s the point of us these foreign tech workers, anyway, coming here and beating up?” accommodation costs with their paid jobs? “
So, is the Facebook movement a nail in the coffin of Dublin’s technology office’s never-ending expansion program?
Will half of the tech multinationals become, as one grumpy Twitter guy put it, “a little more than shell companies enjoying low tax breaks and no longer employing anyone”?
Facebook’s new HR policy may or may not be a dawn for the future of work. It could just be another memo from Zuckerberg that isn’t fully followed up. (There have been a few.)
Google, for example, is not taking such an enthusiastic stance on remote working. It does not foresee more than a fifth of workers choosing to work from home in the long term. In the meantime, he’s actually applying for a building permit to expand his office footprint – again – in Dublin.
In Cork, Apple boss Tim Cook has an even tougher line, telling staff they should all be back to work in September.
Even in Facebook’s Dublin office, there’s a very nuanced take on Zuckerberg’s memo outlining the new remote work plans.
Working in another country will not apply to those working in tax, compliance, security, data regulation, finance, or most content review activities. It’s a big part of what Facebook does in Ireland.
But even if these workers could move, would they?
I have found that popular opinions on this issue – that Dublin is a costly kip purely because of its tax avoidance tech employers – are often far from the truth.
How many of those who have come to work and live here are really anxious to leave?
“A lot of us who come from other countries come to live in Dublin,” a Facebook employee told me.
It may seem like a narrative disruptor for those of us who struggle to see a lot of things to celebrate in Dublin, which has no metro, no Champions League football, and expensive accommodation.
But it’s worth considering, if only for a moment, that Ireland’s capital city may in fact be a popular place to live among many tech workers after all.
As I wrote in this column last week, the death of the physical office can also be seriously overburdened. Very few of the big tech employers here are giving up their desks. For the largest of them, it’s the opposite approach, with long-term expansion plans in place.
There is no doubt that a significant number of Irish workers are now in favor of the option of ‘hybrid’ or ‘flexible’ work. An Amarach Research survey of 1,200 people last week even claimed that 80% of us wanted the flexibility to work at least part of the time outside of the office.
Even though this survey was commissioned by Virgin Media, one of Ireland’s largest broadband companies and a regular advocate of advanced home connectivity, it reflects the aspirations of many who imagine their best lifestyle scenario. after the pandemic.
But as I argued last week, what we think we prefer might not be exactly what works best in a free market. We will all know for sure in a year or two.
For now, Facebook is looking to see what a world could look like with improved geographic choice for employees.
At this time next year, some may be connecting from Berlin, Bologna or Biarritz. But I bet most will still be commuting from Ballsbridge or Blanch.