Business Sense | Remote work in the redwoods – Times-Standard

During the pandemic, many of us found ourselves working from home for the first time. For some businesses, the allowance was temporary while others, including my own, found it so successful they made an ongoing commitment to a “remote first” strategy.
For my employer, going remote meant they could hire the best people from across the nation and even the globe. For me, it meant I was able to adopt a dog, bake a lot of sourdough, and move back to Humboldt County after 30 years away, without having to risk my career or disrupt my income.
While I was growing up in Southern Humboldt, it was its own world. We were very isolated. That world has transformed. With cell phone service, satellite internet reaching even the most rural homes, and a new subsea cable set to connect Eureka with Taiwan by 2025, connectivity is increasing across the region. I still have family members living “off the grid” but, for most of us, new opportunities are here if we want to pursue them.
It feels inevitable that Humboldt County will accommodate increasing numbers of remote workers in the future. The question is: who will those remote workers be? While I’m sure some tech industry veterans are making their way north and bringing their jobs with them, I hope that existing local residents will also be empowered to partake in the opportunities and benefits of remote work.
Working from home has been fantastic for me. It means I can live where I want, not just within a short commute of a downtown corporate office. I’m home to receive deliveries, walk my dog, and make lunch for my family. I rarely get in a car.
That said, there are skills and assets required to enable a work-from-home lifestyle to succeed. Good internet service is just the starting point. You need a comfortable desk setup at home with some privacy and quiet. Solid written communication skills are crucial. The only person that can determine what kind of structure will enable you to focus and be productive is you; there’s no workspace culture to provide a framework.
Additionally, with such a broad applicant pool, remote jobs can be competitive. It helps to get high-value certifications in your field, or to develop specializations that will put you on the shortlist for some subset of employers.
As we go through yet another episode of dramatic economic shift in Humboldt County, I’d like to see local residents accessing remote work as one option to provide income for their families. I’d like to see our local graduates gaining access to a whole world of potential employers and careers, in addition to local options. With individual income not limited by local employment options, we would see increased financial stability for residents and thus also for the local businesses they support with their paychecks. Those local businesses might also benefit directly by embracing remote work for their employees and gaining access to a broader talent pool.
Several decades ago, I felt I had to leave Humboldt County in order to seek opportunity. I hope my young nephew in Redway and great-niece in Fortuna will have more options to stay right here and thrive, no matter what kind of work they choose to pursue.
Kalina Wilson is principal engineer for a software company based in Portland, Oregon. She lives in Eureka.

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