Workers employing their skills from home-based offices have largely been viewed as a minority but today, all of that seems to be changing and remote workers are expected to become a growing sector of the economy in months to come.
Since mid-March when the current COVID-19 crisis changed virtually all parts of our lives and those of society around us, more and more workers have been using their home as their new workspace.
And many companies have indicated that it may continue even when the pandemic is considered to be over and the threat of contracting the disease is minimal.
Locally, Debbie Landers, John Haldeman and Amy Manson are just three workers who call home their permanent workspace. And while many others are working from home on a temporary basis, a good percentage of them may continue to do so.
Among those employers are Twitter which is allowing employees to work from home forever, Open Text which is allowing 2,000 of its 15,000 employees to work from home permanently, Shopify which will allow its 5,000 employees to work from home indefinitely, and Transport Canada which is allowing employees to work from home as a default position along with Google and Facebook which are extending work-from-home protocols until 2021.
“There are equal opportunities to engage colleagues from around the globe which wouldn’t be possible in a static office environment.”
Debbie Landers, who is now working for Georgian Partners, a private equity investment company, is a veteran having started working remotely for IBM when she moved to Windsor in 1995.
“It was once of the first companies in the world to encourage remote workers and it’s been a great experience,” said Landers who moved to Windsor after meeting her husband, Dan Bornais.
“When we decided to relocate here, I thought I would have to leave IBM and find another job but there weren’t any jobs in Windsor at the time,” said Landers, who held a high-level executive position with the company. “Luckily, I was able to stay with IBM and continued working from home until 2018 when I left and joined Georgian.”
More than 20 years ago, the technology and internet weren’t as robust as they are now but today with remarkable advances in technology, there is very little a worker can’t do from a home office.
At one time, Landers supervised more than 3,000 people around the globe and found that working from remote locations and connecting by videoconferencing was a great equalizer for employees who may have felt marginalized by not being in the same room as their supervisor.
“It created a very collaborative environment and it has continued in my experience at Georgian,” said Landers. “There are equal opportunities to engage colleagues from around the globe which wouldn’t be possible in a static office environment.”
“Once I landed a job allowing me to work from home, it simply made sense to move here.”
John Haldeman is another remote worker who decided to relocate to Windsor with his wife nine years ago and start a family.
He also was working for IBM in the Toronto area and when he landed a remote job with Atlanta-based Information Insights LLC, he moved to Windsor because of its cost of living, affordable housing prices, access to numerous outdoor activities, waterfront and proximity to Detroit’s attractions and its’ international airport.
“Once I landed a job allowing me to work from home, it simply made sense to move here,” said Haldeman. “It’s been a great experience and I don’t regret it at all.”
For many workers, a large part of their work experience involves the social aspect of their job along with daily collaboration and conversations with their colleagues.
“You have to make time to get to know your colleagues and good managers will encourage that aspect of the job,” said Haldeman.
Haldeman, who has three children, said they occasionally interrupt his work but “it’s something you deal with and they understand.
“When I disappear into my office, they understand I am working and when I come back out smiling, they know the day is done,” said Haldeman.
Haldeman said that the many advantages of working from home include the elimination of commuting time, an ability to set his own schedule, work in family time and appointments when needed and the fact he’s fresh and not frustrated from spending time in traffic every morning.
“While I realize many people are working from home because of COVID-19, I get a sense many people will continue to do so even when society and business begins to return to normal,” said Haldeman. “For me, I’ve gained back numerous hours I used to spend in the car and now that time can be put to much better use.”
“The sheer advancement of technology makes it much easier than even five or 10 years ago.”
Amy Manson, who has worked for Shopify for the past 4.5 years, is another remote worker who has made the adjustment to living in Windsor after moving here a year ago.
Manson and her partner, a fulltime student at the University of Windsor, have a seven-year-old daughter and the remote working arrangement is a perfect way to combine work, life and home.
“Every day is a new day but we’ve been able to shift schedules and make it work for everyone,” said Manson. “The sheer advancement of technology makes it much easier than even five or 10 years ago.”
Manson said that eliminating commuting time has left her with more time for herself as well as her partner and daughter.
“I’m loving it and it’s made me a more well-rounded person because I have been able to become more self-aware and capable of taking time for myself,” she said. “As a result, I’ve come to know and understand myself better.”
“And I’m very happy not to miss the next birthday because of traveling,” she added.
Landers, Haldeman and Manson have all made working from home work in many different ways with many advantages and all three expect the numbers of remote workers to grow exponentially over the next few years.
“Companies are making it even easier for employees to communicate with each other and I see that continuing,” added Manson.
In response to the recent global remote work shift, Windsor-Essex organizations including WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation, WEtech Alliance, Workforce WindsorEssex, Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island, and the Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab are teaming up to leverage the opportunity to retain, attract or return educated workers from larger cities to further support the recovery of Windsor-Essex’s economy.