Over the last two years, how many people have decided to live out their dreams now that remote work is an option? We all know those people who have always wanted to live in the mountains, so now they’re living in Denver, or they want to escape the brutal Chicago-area winters, and now they’ve moved to Florida.
They’re in good company. According to research by the freelance platform Upwork, five million US workers have moved during the last two years. The freedom created by remote work has enabled many working professionals to live where they want, not necessarily where they work. Before 2020, as many as 80% of workers lived within a 90-minute commute of their offices, but now trends suggest that home markets a few hours’ drive from big cities and major airport hubs like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are heating up, too.
For all those workers who’ve pulled up stakes and left, though, there are many more who are firmly planted near their workplaces, even if they are still fully remote or working a hybrid schedule for the foreseeable future. That five million might seem like a big number, but according to the report, it’s under three percent of the US workforce. This reality leaves many of us living and working local, even as a digital-first world becomes the norm.
For those of us doing so, navigating the new world of work while living local can be a challenge. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
The power of local business
Small business is the heart of the American economy. According to the Small Business Administration, in late 2021 there were over 32.5 million businesses nationwide with 500 or fewer workers. These businesses employ nearly 50% of the private-sector workforce nationwide. So, while the face of work looks like Zoom and Teams, it’s not the entire story. Many US workers are returning or have already returned to their offices, even if part-time or on a hybrid schedule.
Small businesses also power the economy. They are major drivers of job creation: according to research, small businesses add 1.5 million jobs annually, or about two-thirds of all jobs created in the US.
Even spending with small businesses can boost the local economy. For every $100 spent with a local business, $68 stays in the local economy, as compared to $43 when that $100 is spent with a national chain, according to research by nonprofit organization Sustainable Connections.
The power of connection
Living, working, and buying local still matter. So does connecting with others—professionally and personally. It may be a new world, but networking remains a powerful investment, whether you’re looking for a job or looking to hire someone. For many of us, it’s been a while, so membership in a professional association like GOA Regional Business Association can help us dust off those social skills and make new connections.
Volunteering can also be a natural way to build those connections—and get comfortable getting out there again. Joining a group like GOA’s Strategic Plan Teams and Event Committees makes it easy and fun to develop leadership skills, work toward a common goal, and build new professional and personal relationships.
The challenges of living and working local
Remote work may have given people unprecedented geographic and schedule flexibility, but it’s introduced new challenges of its own. One of these is “proximity bias,” which means favoring those in close proximity to a workplace. This plays out in offices every day as remote workers and contractors join meetings and connect with colleagues via Zoom, Teams, and other videoconferencing and digital channels.
For managers, it can be challenging to see, hear, and include these people in the same ways as in-person workers. As professionals and business leaders, we can be aware of emerging trends such as proximity bias as well as concerns about productivity, company culture, and more in a new world of work.
Another challenge? Device etiquette. After two years in which many of us interacted with others outside our homes via tablets, smartphones, and computers first, it can be challenging to remember the finer points of communication—and of silencing or stowing devices for in-person communication.
It’s going to take some time for the post-pandemic workplace to normalize. This includes navigating the new expectations and complexities of a digital-first world. The GOA Regional Business Association can make it easier by providing resources and connections for those living and working local.