Yes, one day, we will all emerge from our COVID-19 shutdowns and feel free to travel about without fear and without masks. We hope that day is coming sooner rather than later. But when that day comes, remote work will be a lasting part of the “new normal.”
COVID-19 caused an overnight acceleration of the growing “telework” trend, now called remote work, that hadn’t yet gained broad acceptance amongst employers. COVID-19 turned that trend into a tidal wave of change. Everyone scrambled to adapt at first — but now, five months later, it has become a preferred mode of work for millions of workers.
And it turns out productivity has gone up by as much as 40% for those working from home. Employees are happy with the flexibility and better use of time that remote working provides. I have to say I’m not at all surprised, because I have been working remotely on and off for the past 20 years.
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Working both in the office and at home provides the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to work, while also having the flexibility to be an engaged parent. For me, sometimes it meant getting my work done earlier and later than a traditional 9-5 schedule, but the trade-off was always worth it.
When I moved to Las Cruces in 2007, I still worked “in” San Diego and again when I returned from Washington, D.C., to Las Cruces. It was great to keep my D.C. job, while being able to enjoy a significantly better quality of life than the life-sucking, three-hour daily commute.
Remote working is showing rapid adoption and acceleration among corporations and tech giants, as well as smaller businesses that may not have previously considered this as an option.
A recently published article in The Atlantic, “The Workforce Is About to Change Dramatically,” discussed studies showing that 1 in 6 workers will continue working from home (according to a Harvard Business School survey) and one-fifth of the total workforce may remain remote workers (according to a survey conducted by Upwork).
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This trend is going to have parallel consequences, including reshaping commercial real estate, expanding entrepreneurship, and encouraging what’s already underway — a mass exodus from high-cost urban core areas. If you can “work from anywhere,” why not let anywhere be someplace affordable, with more space, and a great quality of life? (See also: New Mexico!)
But it also means two critical changes for those preparing for or trying to reenter the workforce:
- Gain the skills, technology and internet access you need now to be a part of a remote workforce so you don’t limit your options
- Don’t let your career search be limited by location
For students in the K-12 system and college, gaining these skills is happening out of necessity. Both are attending class remotely and having to learn new skills to navigate their learning environment. What they learn now will become the required “soft” or employability skills for the remote workforce of the future.
Remote work presents new possibilities for those recently displaced from their jobs by the virus. As of this writing, at least 40 jobs are posted on the state’s Workforce Connections portal. To learn more and apply, visit the Job Seeker tab on the Department of Workforce Solutions website at dws.state.nm.us. The local Workforce Connections staff are also soon to post information about how to avoid “scam” work from home opportunities which, unfortunately, have also materialized in our COVID-crazy world. You can contact them and learn more by visiting employnm.com.
Doña Ana County and New Mexico really do have much to gain from this accelerating trend. Our people can access opportunities in other, larger communities, without ever leaving home. They can improve their quality of life for themselves and their families. And we can attract droves of “work from anywhere” residents of high-cost, low-quality of life areas to our wonderful little part of the world.
Tracey Bryan is president/CEO of the Bridge of Southern New Mexico.
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