Harrison Harnisch
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26 October 2018
Categories Remote Work

Remote Work Matters For Communities

A few weeks ago, @rrhoover sent out a poll asking what people find most important when looking for a job, and remote work came out on top by a wide margin. The results were hardly surprising to me. Watching the discussion about health, parenting and general freedom it sparked, I found myself thinking that’s true - but that’s not it. That’s not why remote work is changing our world for the better.

Now this poll isn’t exactly a scientific study - it excluded a few things most people value like fair pay, a strong and ethical team, worthy mission etc. But then I’m not a scientist, and the point is, people care a lot about being remote workers themselves. That’s cool. But we’re missing out on that bigger picture why as a society, we should be supporting companies that do remote work.

Remote work is not without trade-offs, and it’s not for everyone. That said, there are some non-obvious benefits that can make the world a better place - more than just getting rid of your morning commute.

My first experience with remote work was at Respondly (since acquired by Buffer) mostly working with other people who were working remote. I was living in the Bay Area with teammates in New Zealand, Germany and other cities in the US. Up to that point I had only worked with local teams in an office and had no expectations. The only real difference I felt was the adjustment to written communication, since I am primarily an audio learner. This was quickly overcome and often better since it is possible to search through all previous conversations.

Fast forward a couple years and I’m working remotely 100% of the time. I’ve moved away from the Bay Area and still have a fulfilling job in tech. While it hasn’t been easy 100% of the time, I’ve managed to stay disciplined with my schedule. I haven’t fallen into the sweatpants every day trap you sometimes hear people talk about with remote work (there are days though 😂). I spend time at the local coffee shops, the library and a few restaurants and bars with wifi.

Investment In Communities

If you think of spending money as a small vote every time you spend it, getting a coffee can be an investment. When you spend money at the local coffee shop more of it stays in the community longer if you compare spending at Starbucks or having coffee delivered from Amazon.

The effect is that tech companies are investing in the communities where the employees live. Over the long term this could open up other opportunities in small towns with a big remote working presence. Some towns have already started to catch on, even offering $10,000 to live there so long as you work in another state. The added opportunities will give people more options, rather than needing to live in a city. This isn’t to say that everyone should work in a distributed team or live in a small town, just that if you can do you job from anywhere it should be your choice where to work.

Being Part Of The Community

When you spend time in the community you have to interact with other humans (weird right?!) and conversations happen where ideas are exchanged. This works best when people have different ideas. Tech centers like the Bay Area (and cities in general) have created pockets of like minded people – in both cities and the people who stayed in small towns. You could go political and point out that a lot of problems happen when these groups feel like they’re on different sides. In reality, it ends up being an imaginary line that separates people.

Giving people the option to stay in their communities is important, and this tweet sums it up perfectly:

This all makes me hopeful that things are going to keep getting better, so long as we can keep working together to make this a thing.

Special shout out to @katie_womers for suggestions and edits!

Have some thoughts on this? Reach out to me on Twitter: @hjharnis

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