Central Oregon Soars as Remote Working Mecca

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Chamber Event Touts Growing Range of Supportive Resources for Telecommuters

In the widening digital world, as ever-advancing technology allows increasing flexibility in how business is conducted, Central Oregon has become a vibrant hub for remote workers who are drawn to operate from an area with a widely acknowledged and enviable quality of life.

To encourage this increasingly prominent economic development — and counteract any feelings of isolation for those working remotely or from home — the evolving phenomenon locally is being supported by a growing collaborative ecosystem, as illustrated recently by a Bend Chamber of Commerce-sponsored gathering under the “What’s Brewing” series banner at 10 Barrel Brewing’s 18th Street meeting facility.

The event was designed to widen exposure to a raft of resources available to this sector of non-traditional workers — including co-working spaces like The Haven, BendTECH (which recently opened a second westside location) and The Collective NWX in Bend, which have sprung up to provide flexible community-oriented environments that help connect remote workers, freelancers and tech entrepreneurs.

Representatives were also on hand from nonprofit organizations such as Opportunity Knocks, which has been helping business and leaders grow through facilitated mentorship since 1996, *Leadership Bend, Bend Young Professionals, OSU-Cascades startup incubator Co-Lab and Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO). Deschutes County Library proponents also reminded attendees of their available resources, including reservable meeting rooms and a host of research and database tools.

Chamber Marketing Manager Stephanie Shaver commented: “Our business community is thrilled that so many remote workers have made Central Oregon their preferred office space.

“We are a resource for professional and personal development and can help plug telecommuters and the like into our thriving business ecosystem and engage with local organizations and resources.”

The Haven co-founder Scott Douglass added: “Around 13 percent of our region works remotely currently and, in addition to The Haven offering a place to actualize ambitions and impact on our community, we have a thriving array of resources to provide support, advocacy and connections, each with a different flavor.”

In a similar vein of stimulating opportunities to engage with the community locally, the Bend Chamber recently added a Leadership Development Coordinator position to its roster, represented by Addie DeLong.

According to researchers, more than two-thirds of people around the world work away from the office at least once every week. Studies have found that 70 percent of professionals work remotely at least one day a week, while 53 percent work remotely for at least half of the week.

The ability to work from home and the emergence of digital office rental services has led to changing attitudes around where people should work and whether they should stick to the traditional nine-to-five working hours, spawning a number of shared workspaces for companies and freelancers.

Digital technology is the primary driver of such changing perceptions around locations and working hours, with firms less inclined to invest in real estate, and the idea of remote working allowing employees to be more flexible.

Last year, the Bend-Redmond metro area ranked fifth in the U.S. for people who work from home, at 11.5 percent, and has been in the top five of the 384 metropolitan statistical analysis areas in that category since 2013.

The remote work phenomenon is well and truly underway and looks set to continue to blossom, boosted by the advent of “5G” — the fifth-generation wireless technology for digital cellular networks that began wide deployment in 2019 — that will doubtless speed up the trajectory of organizations across the spectrum towards remote work, and deepen its effects on the workforce, both locally and nationally.

In order to address the growing number of remote working professionals in Central Oregon, outlets such as The Haven and The Collective NWX have opened workspaces for individuals or small companies looking for a professional alternative to a home office or coffee shop.

Kent Odendahl, owner and creative partner of The Collective NWX, said: “Our mission is to foster a sense of community for all members and to enable strong and sustainable connections to the local businesses and nonprofit organizations of Bend and Central Oregon.

“Working at home can be an isolating experience, and our goal was to create a workspace to expand professional connections while cultivating creativity and collaboration.”

Andrew Young, who relocated to Bend to work remotely for a Seattle-based company that provides engineering services for the marine industry, said initially he was concerned that communication with corporate headquarters would be an issue.

But he worked diligently to adapt to his “distributed-employee” status, and now — with the help of productivity and communication tools such as Trello, Teams and GoToMeeting — he says both he and the company are very happy with the arrangement.

Having first-hand experience with the struggles of making the move to remote employment, Young volunteered to lead the “Bend Remote Worker Meetup,” which meets regularly, at the BendTECH original location on SW Emkay Drive.

He said that during the meetings — which are open to any Bend-based remote workers, not just those who work out of the BendTECH co-working offices — these distributed employees share tips and tricks for improving communication and productivity while working away from their employers’ head offices.

He added: “It’s also a ‘Happy Hour,’ and for many of us remote workers, it’s just nice to talk to people who are in the same situation.

“We don’t always talk about work. For lots of remote workers — particularly those who work from home — it’s just a good opportunity to meet people face to face.”

Young’s story is becoming more and more common, both in Bend and around the world. Once extremely rare, as productivity and communication tools have improved, remote employees and distributed workforces are becoming the new normal.

According to FlexJobs, as of last July, 4.7 million U.S. workers now work remotely, fully 3.4 percent of the U.S. population. In fact, between 2005 and 2017, there was a 159 percent increase in remote work in the U.S.

*About Leadership Bend

Leadership Bend is a community leadership development program designed to identify, educate, train and connect willing and committed citizens to leadership roles in the community. There now are over 470 Leadership Bend alumni who serve as community “trustees” through board service, elected office and more. Leadership Bend is supported by Taylor Northwest and like-minded businesses who believe that a healthy community comes from investment in leadership.

A spokesperson said: “It is our belief that everything begins with leadership. As a growing and very special region in Oregon, the issues become increasingly more complex and the need for leadership is greater than ever. After all, who will ‘pass the torch’ and continue to build upon what was planted by our pillars before us? Leadership Bend educates committed participants on the unique challenges, opportunities and resources in our community, allowing one to become part of the future as a more informed and engaged citizen.”

bendchamber.org

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Simon Mather CBN Feature Writer

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