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When Konstantin B., a vertical foundry ontologist working at Austin's Google offices, was told he would be working from home, he felt simultaneously safer and more inspired.
"Working from home has been a relief in the very real sense that it minimized my chances of getting infected," Konstantin says.
Google, as with other big tech companies such as Twitter and Facebook, has had their employees and contractors working remotely since March. In July, the search engine announced that it would extend its remote working policy until September 2021.
Konstantin B.'s at home setup as an employee of Google. (Konstantin B.)
Konstantin, who asked for his last name not to be used for privacy concerns, says Google management has been exceptionally open-minded regarding the breaks necessary to keep sane and productive while working from home.
"They understand that working from home can be daunting, as staying at home can be hard on mental health," he says. "It's best to pace yourself and be productive the whole week, instead of just pushing through and being awake for two days and getting all the work done then."
Reports from Google's internal data in October showed, coding from home has had a negative effect on Google's productivity. In June an internal survey found that only 31% of the company's engineers reported feeling "highly productive," a number that was down 8% from a record high in the March quarter.
Elsa Morales, senior account director at Austin's Giant Noise Public Relations and Communications, who has been working from home since March, has found remote working relaxing.
"Working from home has encouraged me to take breaks during the day and take short walks around my neighborhood which I've really enjoyed," says Morales.
Elsa Morales is the senior account director at Austin's Giant Noise Public Relations and Communications. (Elsa Morales)
But despite the perks of strolling between screen-sessions, Morales feels that everyone misses that face-to-face exchange of ideas and in-person interaction.
"At the beginning of the pandemic, it was a bit challenging getting a hang of constantly communicating on the phone or video. Not having that in-person collaboration has probably been one of the biggest challenges for me," she says, adding, "being together in the office allowed us to have brainstorm sessions over coffee or immediately bouncing ideas off each other after a call."
A recent poll published in Forbes, which surveyed 312 people working from home, found that 82% agreed or strongly agreed that they enjoyed working from home, and 60% said they felt less stressed working from home.
Gina Littlefield, CEO of Austin Staffing, Inc., says working from home has allowed the more introspective individuals in the business world to really shine.
"The people that are real outgoing Type A Personalities, they are the ones having an issue," she adds, referring to those employees that thrive off the more social aspects of office work. "I think you are seeing a bit of depression, especially if you are that Type A Personality—you want to be in the world with everyone there and going into the lunchroom and feeling that hustle-bustle, and I feel a lot of people are having troubles right now and so I definitely feel that has to be addressed."
Gina Littlefield is the CEO of Austin Staffing. (Gina Littlefield)
Littlefield is certain that working from home will become a major facet of the business world since everything is done electronically. She stipulates that as far as her company is concerned the decision to work from home will be entirely up to the individual worker.
"We are happy to be able to extend that final decision to them and sometimes it works well for them because they have small children and they can't take them to a daycare and can't do this or that, so, you know what? That's workable, and why not? I have no problem with that."
In order to accommodate those who want to work in an actual office during the pandemic, Littlefield is currently looking into purchasing a new building to expand the physical office space to allow everyone six feet of separation from workstation to workstation.
"We have half of our people out and half of our people in," says Littlefield. "We do intend to have people in (person) more but (want to) give them the opportunity to make the decision to come and go if they need. We want people to enjoy working from home."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that Texas will opt out of further federal unemployment benefits related to the pandemic effective June 26, citing the number of current job openings and concern about potentially fraudulent unemployment claims. The benefits include a $300 weekly supplement.
"The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring communities across the state," Abbott said in a statement. "According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the number of job openings in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment jobs."
TWC listed 837,273 job openings as of Monday afternoon compared to 226,849 unemployment insurance claims filed statewide between March 31 and May 1. An estimated 1 million Texans were unemployed as of March, according to latest estimates released by the state agency.
Some local business owners, including Doc's Backyard Grill owner Charles Milligan, suspect unemployment benefits are deterring Austinites from returning to work. But others agree with economists who say multiple factors are at play, including health concerns and child care availability.
We're seeing lots of posts about how nobody wants to work right now. Just wanted to share our experience.
We received over 60 resumes for a taproom bartender position we posted last week. Every applicant we've set up an interview with has shown up.
People want 𝘨𝘰𝘰𝘥 work.
— Austin Beerworks (@AustinBeerworks) May 11, 2021
Abbott also cited fraudulent unemployment claims. Between March 2020 and April 2021, TWC received 4.48 million unemployment benefit applications, 611,000 or around 14% of which were tagged as suspicious. Most of those tagged were blocked before any benefits were paid out, according to an April 29 press release.
Federal law requires the effective date of such benefits change to be at least 30 days after the U.S. Department of Labor is notified.
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