Remote Work - The Technological and Political Shifts

How long have you worked remote? The answer might depend on what industry you work in. For some professions such as manufacturing or the skilled trades, remote work is impossible.

But for many industries, remote work is nothing new. JetBlue Airways is an excellent example. They started operations in the year 2000 and from the beginning, offered a work-from-home business model for their Customer Support team. JetBlue has 2100 employees in Customer Support based in Salt Lake City, of which 1800 work from home.

JetBlue offered remote work as it provided flexibility to working parents, and they were able to save huge real estate costs by not needing to provide expensive working space in their New York City based headquarters.

The history of remote work actually goes back further in time - A LOT further. According to an infographic on entitled “The History of Remote Work,” it begins back in the year 1560 when a central administration building for the Medici mercantile empire was constructed in Florence, Italy. This was the ancestor of the modern office. To put this another way, virtually everyone worked remote before this time.

The benefits of a remote workforce are numerous. For the employer, they get savings on real estate, reduced asset costs, and the ability to hire from a broad and diverse talent pool. For the remote worker, they enjoy reduced or no commuting time, better work/life balance, and a more flexible schedule.

What kind of cost savings can be expected? According to Global Workplace Analytics, a typical employer can save an average of $11,000 per half-time remote worker per year. Remote workers can expect to save between $2,500 and $4,000 per year by not commuting to an office just half of the time.

An ever increasing remote workforce has a direct impact in the technical, economic, and political shifts of our culture. And the Covid 19 pandemic has further changed the landscape of office work for millions of people, possibly forever.

Economic Shifts

There was a time that people in the United States, a new job or promotion meant relocation to a new city or state. Many people moved to another location for better weather or a lower cost of living. And countless people moved just to find enhanced career opportunities that did not exist where they were living.

In 2018, over 32 million people moved, and everyone of those people created economic changes in two locations. Everything spent on whatever those people needed to support their families from housing, healthcare, education, transportation, and food was purchased in a different location.

In monetary terms, these relocations amounted of billions of dollars that were previously spent in one location that are now spent in another.

But the trend for work relocation has been trending downward over the past 20 years. In the year 2000, about 23% of all workers relocated for work, yet by 2018, the percentage or people who relocated dropped to about 10%.

Mostly due to technology, people are no longer compelled to move to seek greater opportunities, as many can shift to the remote workforce. And many companies have accepted this shift to enhance their talent pool. In fact, the growth in remote work has been dramatic, rising 44% from 2014 to 2019.

And in an increasingly remote workforce, billions of dollars in expenditures that may have moved either stay in place, or relocate to a place that is not necessarily a traditional business center.

Automox recognized this trend toward remote work and embraced this shift to over a year ago when we announced that we are pursuing a remote workforce policy.

Political Shifts

What do Northwest Arkansas, Savannah Georgia, Tucson Arizona, The Shoals of Alabama, Tulsa Oklahoma, and Topeka Kansas have in common? At first glance, this list may not seem like the cities and areas that you think of as the destinations of choice for companies relocating their workforce.

But something else is happening. All these municipalities are offering incentives worth up to $10,000 and more for remote working professionals, especially tech workers, to relocate to their city. Besides the money, these locations offer a more affordable cost of living, outdoor recreation opportunities, more space, and less congestion. And many people believe that these add up to a better quality of life.

We used to see large corporations being offered large tax incentives to relocate their company. It wasn’t too long many years ago that Mercedes Benz, Hertz, and Tesla were given multi-million dollar tax incentives and credits to relocate their headquarters or plants. And the overall impact of these and many other large relocations created a shift in economic and political influence as populations tended to move from the northeast to the south and southwest.

The trend towards remote work has the ability to change this dynamic. In a report by Upwork, an online platform that connects businesses and freelancers, remote work can direct wealth away from the 15 most expensive areas in the United States to areas with a lower cost of living. They found that in 2018, half of spending on their platform came from businesses located in these top 15 metro areas. In contrast, 72% of the earnings went to remote workers in smaller cities or more rural areas.

This trend has the ability to provide an economic boost to smaller cities that may not have the ability to attract a major corporate relocation. Regardless of where people relocate, the rising number of remote workers and their spending power can have enormous political implications that can take years to reveal.

Technical Shifts

If we were to plot out a chart comparing the growth in the remote workforce and the adoption of cloud services, I am sure we would find a correlation. It’s possible that both a shift to the cloud enabled more remote workers, and a remote workforce created demand for greater cloud adoption.

On-premises architecture, and the services and tools built on them were born of a different era. It was not too many years ago that corporate headquarters and campus locations housed all workers in a centralized location. And there were many reasons for this trend. The company could achieve some economies of scale for real estate costs and some business functions. Having everyone in one location could enhance teamwork and collaboration, and provide a degree of physical security. Plus a centralized datacenter enabled the use of enterprise tools to manage and grow the business.

This is what a network architecture to support a large corporation looked like. Companies required many specialized skills and expensive resources to manage including system engineers, database administrators, network engineers, and telco specialists.

The modern agile workforce is no longer dependent upon legacy technical architecture to help run the business. In 2021, cloud computing is projected to process 94% of all business workloads and this will have tremendous impact on new business models built on remote workforces.

Cloud-native technology empowers a dynamic and remote workforce. IT workers can focus on key business objectives and value generating activities and not managing systems. Knowledge workers can leverage a multitude of mobile devices and collaboration software, regardless of location. And the ability to work anywhere with a potential for a higher quality of life can lead to increased employee satisfaction and greater productivity.

Automox can help you make the shift to remote work while seamlessly keeping your corporate endpoints secure. You can start with the Infographic “5 Considerations to Seamlessly Secure your Remote Workforce,” where we outline the key steps needed to manage all your newly roaming devices and, most importantly, how to keep these remote endpoints secure.

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