When many of us think of remote work, what comes to mind are people in cities or suburbs who don’t want to fight traffic. But one of the really interesting long-term effects of working anywhere you want, is that people can work…well, anywhere they want. This could mean a second chance for small towns and isolated communities which have been losing population for years.
Laurel Farrer works with governments in the US and elsewhere to examine how even the smallest, most remote communities can become part of the new, expanding trend in working anywhere the right brains are. I asked her some questions about her work.
Why do some people believe that working from home, telework, and virtual teams is going to help rural communities?
Rural communities around the world are in a battle against urbanization to retain their prime workforce and preserve a diverse population. Agricultural and manufacturing jobs are being replaced by technology, leaving a weak job market for local residents. In order to earn a sustainable income, many workers are being forced to move to developed areas that can provide more competitive wages.
Virtual jobs eliminate this “workforce drain” by giving rural communities access to stable, high-paying, knowledge-based work without having to move an inch. These jobs not only benefit the worker’s family and lifestyle, but also, in turn, their local economies.
What kind of government programs are you seeing that address this?
The government initiative that I have personally strategized is the Utah Rural Online Initiative, which is a state-funded program to educate rural workers on virtual work skills, support online businesses, and support county/municipal organizations in stimulating their local economies with remote jobs.
This program will soon be available for implementation by other government organizations, but we are also seeing other strategies from other cities and states that are also trying to harness the power of remote work, such as Tulsa Remote, Vermont Remote Worker Grant Program, and Telework VA.
What barriers to success do you encounter when talking about this?
Honestly, not much. Once educated on the benefits of remote work, governments, workers, and businesses are all anxious to take advantage. The only long-term barrier that I forsee is continued funding for programs like these, which is why I’m designing the Utah ROI program to keep relationships local (to keep tax benefits within the region) and have enough revenue streams to make it self-sustainable.
Can you give me a couple of success stories that show what the possibilities are?
Yes! The Utah ROI team has a Slack channel dedicated just to success stories of program graduates. We only launched in October and already we’re seeing multiple posts of people who were able to increase sales of their business by expanding to an online market, or who were unemployed and were able to secure an online job, or are supplementing their income with freelance contracts. In 2019, ROI will be launching a podcast to share these interviews.
For more background on the topic of remote work and economic development, check out these links:
- Notes from a previous roundtable on economic development and remote work.
- An article from Laurel that triggered her involvement with economic development
- A piece from Forbes highlighting the Utah ROI program
Laurel Farrer advocates for the corporate and social power of remote work as a virtual operations strategist, government consultant, and global advocate. Learn more at laurelfarrer.com.
For more information about how remote work is helping save small towns, visit the Rural Online Initiative website.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.