The Companies Bringing the Office to Remote Workers After employees moved away during the pandemic, some businesses are opening workspaces in their new cities


Caroline Giese decamped to Durham, N.C., from Seattle during the first wave of COVID-19 in 2020 to live and work remotely. Roughly two years later, her office followed her there.

Rather than requiring Giese to return to the West Coast office, employer Boston Consulting Group in October 2022 rented dedicated 

 office space for Raleigh-Durham area workers, most of whom relocated there during the pandemic.

BCG, a global company with 29 offices in the U.S., has also opened new offices in Nashville, Tenn., San Diego, and Brooklyn, N.Y., in the past two years. The four locations—two of which are at co-working facilities—provide office space for more than 300 workers close to where they want to live, the firm said.

“My commute is about 10 minutes. It cuts down travel time. There’s more time for pre-and post-work activities,” such as playing pickleball, visiting breweries, and going for runs on the American Tobacco Trail, Giese said. “It just feels like a more tight-knit, sustainable place to live.” 

Caroline Giese remained at her job when she relocated from the West Coast.

Giese, a 34-year-old management consultant with clients in the Southeast, isn’t required to be at the office a minimum number of days each week but likes having the option when she isn’t traveling. “Being 100% remote was really hard because a lot of our job requires collaboration and brainstorming and working together,” said Giese. “Learning and development is so much more accelerated when we can be in person.”

Office attendance tension persists

Companies and workers are still trying to find the right mix of in-person, hybrid, and remote work more than three years after the pandemic hit. With the unemployment rate hovering near a half-century low, the tight labor market means employers are in a delicate dance with workers over the optimal amount of work-from-home flexibility.

The number of available job openings exceeded unemployed job seekers by 3.3 million in August, according to the Labor Department.

Studies show that workers value the freedom and flexibility of remote work, in some cases more than a pay raise. And they have held on to that flexibility: Offices in 10 major U.S. cities were occupied on average at around 50% in late September, according to weekly data from security provider Kastle Systems. 

Employers, meanwhile, are pushing to get workers into the office more often, with many stepping up surveillance of office attendance. Businesses fear that productivity and company culture suffer when workers are dispersed.

Companies such as Zoom, 

-owned Google and 
-parent Meta Platforms—all early pioneers of remote work—are ordering more employees back to the office. 
 this summer told workers that they might have to relocate to main offices concentrated in bigger cities.

“None of us have figured out exactly the right combination of hybrid work,” said Brian Gross, BCG’s chief operating officer for North America. “Where we landed is that some amount of time together is really important. People found flexibility [during the pandemic] and want to keep that.” 

Caroline Giese, eating lunch with BCG colleagues, says she values her short commute.

Gross said BCG’s main reason for opening new satellite offices is to attract and retain talented workers. Cities such as Durham and San Diego have universities, including Duke and the University of California, from which to recruit new staff, in addition to being attractive places for employees to live.  

An August survey conducted by BCG Henderson Institute, the consulting firm’s think tank, found that office workers from different companies who were dissatisfied with their work flexibility were more than twice as likely to consider leaving their organization in the next year compared with those who were satisfied.

Although employees in those satellite offices often don’t work on the same teams, staff members are exposed to company culture and have opportunities to collaborate, Gross said. BCG’s new offices haven’t meant downsizing other locations, he said.

Companies can save costs by renting co-working space or adding offices in cities with lower rent, said Travis Howell, an Arizona State University assistant professor who studies co-working trends. “I think we’re going to start seeing more companies rent desks at co-working spaces for their employees or give their employees a ‘co-working stipend’ where they can choose their own space,” he said.

Companies reach different conclusions

, which requires most workers globally to be in the office three days a week, considered opening smaller locations in New York’s Nassau and Westchester counties, a short distance from the Manhattan headquarters, but the bank ultimately abandoned the idea.

“We explored it, but our hope and desire was always to bring people back when it was safe,” said Edward Skyler, Citigroup’s head of enterprise services and public affairs. “Banking is an apprenticeship business. People really learn from being around each other.”

Gabe Dominocielo, founder and president of Umbra. PHOTO: MATT WILLIAMS

Umbra, a California-based satellite maker and data seller, has a co-working space outside Washington, D.C., “for traffic so people don’t have to deal with it,” said Gabe Dominocielo, the company’s founder and president. The company also has a government affairs office in Washington, which it is expanding.

He said the cost of setting up new workspaces to accommodate workers’ living preferences and shorten commutes was “so marginal relative to having happy people—it’s just nothing.”

“The return on investment to have employees who are not miserable, you can’t quantify that,” Dominocielo said.

Though Umbra is based in Santa Barbara, he works from an Industrious co-working space in Austin, Texas, where he said he moved for lifestyle reasons in 2020 after the pandemic hit.

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