Some contradictions of hybrid back to work

Quick programming note: This is very San Francisco centric. Sorry.

At this year’s YC alumni meetup there were 2 flavours of conversations I had a lot: AI and “what are you doing about work from home?”

Minute for minute of work a well designed office should be more productive -— because that’s literally what it’s designed to do1. So the question really seems as simple as: how much is saving a commute worth vs the lower productivity? But:

  • Work-from-home is great for mid-late career & internally motivated people whereas in-office is a great place to learn through osmosis. WFH could be best for every individual company and still hurt us long term by not training the next generation 2
  • Lots of processes aren’t symmetric: you might want to come back to the office but you moved and you don’t want it enough to give up your 3% mortgage in the suburbs and get a 7% one in the city. Your kids were essentially out of school when you moved during Covid, now they have friends at the new school. You like your standing desk.

In a world where travel has become less reliable) 3 it seems like a hybrid where you work from home 2-3 days a week would be a sensible compromise. But it has some huge flaws.

It’s a super expensive real estate proposition: having a desk in SOMA that your work pays for and paying rent on an extra bedroom you use as an office the rest of the week with San Francisco rents seems like the worst of both worlds. That’s assuming you have the extra room. Basically it works if you already have a house in the suburbs and don’t want to do your commute every day, maybe your kids have started to move out and you hav some spare rooms — just going off gut, that describes the managers & executives more than the ICs.

Partners both work have more complicated math. If you both do hybrid, hopefully the days line up well or you have enough room for 2 home offices4. If you’ve moved and one of your jobs is fine with WFH and the other asks for RTO then you’re making 2 sacrifices for 1 job. And if your taxes5 and cost of living are lower in the new location you’re probably better off just finding a new job locally or remote.

So I don’t have an answer, but now I’m watching how much of the people proposing hybrid are rich enough that only one partner works or bought a house in the suburbs 20 years ago and don’t know what to do with all the space.


  1. Of course many offices aren’t well designed. Some aren’t designed at all. But on average they should be better than an average converted bedroom.

  2. I suspect in general there will be classes of companies like consulting firms that specialize in building peoples early careers and the rest of us will get a little better at formal training & skills transfer.

  3. I wrote most of this post on a bonus 7 hour stay at SFO for a cancelled flight.

  4. This is basically unheard of in San Francisco.

  5. I was actually a little shocked how the math on taxes went even before doing a cost-of-living adjustment. Say you have 2 people in SF earning $150k each and they moved to Nevada in 2020 (Maybe Reno, far enough to come in to SF occasionally, but not something you could do daily). In SF those salaries would have a take home of $212,142, If one partner was able to WFH at the same salary, it’s worth the other partner taking a $27,800 pay cut not to move — just on taxes since $272,200 would give you the same take home in Nevada. Massive oversimplification obviously but shows the point that at a partner who can WFH plus tax brackets really add up. For comparison a single $150k income in SF (take home $113,636) nets the same as $141k in Nevada (take home $113,657).