Employees who worked at home during the pandemic shutdowns seem loath to come back to the office. At the same time, companies want people to come back. The Pew Research Foundation found that 61 percent of the people working from home were doing so by choice -- not because there wasn't an office to go to.

On the other hand, Microsoft found that 50 percent of companies want their employees to return to the office full-time. There's a clear clash between what people want and what senior leadership wants.

At least one government is listening.

On July 5, 2022, the Dutch parliament voted to require companies to "carefully consider" any request for remote work. If the boss denies it, the company will have to explain why under the proposed legislation, which is poised to become law after the senate approves it.

While what happens in Holland may well stay in Holland, American workers looking at this legislation may wonder whether something similar would be a good idea in the U.S. Before joining the lobbying effort, consider this counterpoint.

If you argue that you can do your job 100 percent remotely, then your boss just might believe you. And if your boss starts to believe you, your boss may begin to wonder why you're receiving a high Dutch -- or American -- salary. If the job can indeed be done from anywhere, then why not Malaysia, India, or the Philippines?

An HR executive in a global multi-billion-dollar company told me that the pushback on working in the office might have direct repercussions. She explained that when people ask to work at home and receive Silicon Valley wages elsewhere, "I always say be careful what you wish for. If I can have you in San Francisco or Iowa, I can hire someone in India."

She could have added or replaced you with a robot

Does proximity matter?

If you can work from anywhere, does it matter if that's down the street from your boss or sitting by the pool in a resort half a world away? As someone who lives in Switzerland with mostly American clients, I'd argue that my proximity doesn't matter. But I primarily work independently, and the occasional video meeting is enough.

But can you be as effective in projects requiring close teamwork if the team is scattered across the globe? Or is it better and easier if you can get together -- at least from time to time? Or are in the same time zone?

If proximity doesn't matter for most jobs, why should employers continue to pay high wages? If everyone truly can work anywhere, this is the next logical step.

What if wages drop?

New York, California, and Illinois saw and are continuing to see dramatic drops in population as people leave these high-cost-of-living areas. While Texas and Florida gained the most people from these moves, they weren't the only place to see growth. 

In the past, when people moved, they had to find new jobs with local wages. But many of these people took advantage of the work-from-home policies of the Covid era, took their expensive state salaries, and moved to places where they could get more bang for their buck.

It seemed like a great idea, but then Silicon Valley pushed back, with Mark Zuckerberg floating the idea of smaller salaries for people who moved away. Suddenly, talent pools opened up -- if you didn't have to hire geographically close people, you had more options. 

For people in high-paid jobs, it seems like a great deal. High salary, low cost of living, big house, and cash left over to buy a Tesla to battle high gas prices. And right now, wages are climbing in many areas.

But what if we end up in a recession? Hiring freezes and layoffs are already underway. Netflix, Tesla, Carvana, Peloton, and Zulily had layoffs in 2022. This indicates that a slowdown in wage growth may happen. Since inflation is already high, this could be devastating to a lot of people.

And then what if wages drop? What if no one is willing to pay New York City wages for people who work in Idaho? And then what if no one is willing to pay Idaho wages because they can get the same skills out of India even cheaper?

Convincing people that remote work is the future may not be the best idea.

There are plenty of jobs that you can't do from home. You still can't fill a tooth, fix a clogged sink, or stock grocery shelves from a home office. But dental offices can have a remote receptionist, and a robot can bring new towels to your hotel door.

If employees thoroughly convince the bosses that they don't need to be physically around, bosses may just believe them and start hiring cheaper employees. There's no need to go through the arduous H-1B visa hassle if you can just set up shop in another country to begin with. 

Maybe instead of focusing on why it's not essential to be together, employees should start thinking about why it's important to be in proximity with one another. Hybrid work is the best of both worlds -- employees get time at home and in the office. And perhaps managers won't be so interested in hiring people willing to work for a lot less.