Nov 7, 2019
Brought to you by Virtual Not Distant Ltd.
There’s more to remote work than improving life and work for those exploring its potential. Remote work can be a tool for social change - and today’s episode explores different ways that remote work can have broader impact, with a diverse range of stories and approaches.
One quick update before we meet our expert interviewees: Pilar has a new podcast with the International Association of Facilitators - so if you’re interested in stories from the frontline of facilitation and learning and meetings, then do check that out and enjoy.
Now, onwards with the social impact of remote:
I asked Chris how remote work can help us build and be part of our community (wherever we want to build that, rather than necessarily at work)?
He reminded us that commuting culture put responsibility on the workplace to provide ‘community’, and hubs like WeWork strive to provide everything the worker needs apart from sleep. But we have options now, and employers can dial it down a bit - Chris after all introduced us to the term ‘office optional’, and participating in office cultural activities (as opposed to work activities) should be optional too, freeing people to engage in their local communities as appropriate.
Chris takes a fluid view of location-dependency and work, reminding us how flexible things can be, and that we all have a right to extend that optionality at other times. We can advocate for that flexibility for all workers, to take advantage of the technology now available to us.
Chris also talked about the way remote work is affecting how and where people choose to live, and the social impact of this, a moving target for the future.
Connect with Chris on LinkedIn (and tell him we said hi!).
Remember that remote does not always mean flexible, and vice versa… check out episode 21 of My Pocket Psych for more on this point, while we meet:
Mandy is the managing editor of Working Mums and Working Wise (specialising in employment for over 50s), and joined us way back in episode 74. So she’s been working with the idea of flexible working for years, since Working Mums started in 2006 (now joined by Working Dads as well as Working Wise, to advocate for and promote best practice around working flexibly for all).
They work with employers to help them improve their recruitment and hiring, and has seen many changes in the flexible working agenda over that time. Employers are more open to the concept now, as the evidence is in to support flexibility. But there are still misconceptions (eg flexible = part time) among bigger less nimble organisations. Career progression remains an issue, as does being explicit about remote in recruitment advertising.
Mandy sees flexibility becoming
increasingly normalised into the future, as life grows ever more
complex for parents, carers and all of us.
Nacho is the founder of the Nomad City conference run from Gran Canaria - a region working hard to attract remote workers, initially as digital nomads and now increasingly as employees. We talked about the conference with Nacho in episode 210, and we’ll have an update soon from Nomad City 2019 (in progress as this episode drops!).
Revitalising traditional tourist areas with remote opportunities brings new blood and fresh ideas, as well as creating opportunities for local people to get involved, and the conference has evolved over its 4 year history to embrace ideas ranging from economic development to onboarding remote colleagues to collaboration tech, as well as an invitation-only summit for experienced advocates and consultants.
On the social impact front, the event includes a job fayre to connect local people with remote employers - opening up new opportunities for all.
Remote means no borders - and Lorraine Charles is working with refugees in Jordan and Turkey to facilitate employment opportunities in the refugee population there.
Protectionist labour market laws often restrict employment locally, so technology and the right training can enable broader opportunities for all the population. Location-independent livelihoods provides refugees with resilient futures, and helps stimulate the local economy, in countries which are themselves developing and struggling to deal with an influx of new residents.
Remote work can do so much to change the narrative for employment and make everyone’s lives better - not just for refugees, but parents, disabled people, those who don’t want to migrate to a mega-city somewhere...
But as well as hard and soft skills training, there are needs for better infrastructure, technology and support. Lorraine is actively seeking partners, to help them train refugees, and commit to hiring - can you help, or make a connection? Contact Lorraine via LinkedIn or email, and check out her research paper, or contact us and we’ll put you in touch.
Impact investment is also needed, to create sustainable pathways to growth in emergent markets, while also leveraging the initiatives and expertise of those who have been courageous enough to uproot their lives and start over.
She sees the real power and value of our lives in the ripple effects of social change, impacting on equality, the environment and economic development amongst so many other things. Reversing the cycle of traditionally having to bring businesses in to attract employees, remote work can do so much to support declining areas from the US midwest to rural Africa - this article of Lauren’s, Could remote work be economic development’s new secret weapon? may be two years old, but every point remains relevant somewhere!
Local advocates are needed to build trust on the ground, and solve specific local challenges - every community is unique, and solutions must be tailored and bespoke. People need and want different things from where they choose to live, and once that is decoupled from a job place the possibilities can be overwhelming.
Locations need to learn to promote themselves differently, to attract remote workers seeking particular lifestyles, rather than attracting businesses - and this is a win-win for all, as new residents pay tax and spend their income earned remotely. Initiatives encouraging people to relocate include financial incentives in places like Tulsa and Vermont, and ever more creative solutions are continuing to emerge.
As remote work creates more diverse and rich populations, as people are able to choose where to live, completely separately from choosing the work they do. This is changing communities, as well as changing lives.
Don't forget to keep in touch and let us know what you think, at
Distant, or tweet us at @Virtualteamw0rk.
Hope this episode inspired you as much our guests inspired us! Please do share your thoughts and ideas.