Remote Working Programs: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

March 04, 2021

Remote working has been all the rage – mostly out of necessity – for nearly a year now, but it’s time to take a closer look. The prospect of working from anywhere enticed many who were no longer able to travel to the office, leading some to exotic locations and others to finding financial incentives elsewhere. It seemed to be the perfect cure to get a travel fix while dealing with the realities of the pandemic, just another example of how the travel industry adapted and evolved.

Now, a year into all of it, destination organizations have to stop and ask where this “trend” is going. As safety protocols and vaccine rollouts begin to make in-person working more of a reality, will “working from anyplace” last?

While working from home was already trending as digital nomads showed it was easier to work from anywhere on the globe, the remote working trend seems to have its limits. For destinations who are just now thinking about creating a program, you should take stock before jumping into the ring, because this trend just may be over its peak. Let’s take a critical look at remote working to consider its shortcomings.

1. Need for normalcy

While working from home is one thing, working remotely from a new destination comes with a jolt of excitement. Who wouldn’t want to be in Barbados right now, with their Welcome Stamp program, hitting the beaches after a day of working with colleagues over email and Slack? The appeal is real. We’re all tempted.

But at the same time, who doesn’t pine for an afternoon trip to Target and a Sunday evening dinner with the family? The desire to return to normalcy is the driving force behind the vaccine rollout, and while heading abroad or to a new city to work remotely for a short while seems exciting, it may not seem so appealing as we begin to approach a degree of normality.

People may want to stay home and see friends and family again, marking a cooling in the desire to work from afar. Sure, we all still want to get away, but maybe not for six months to a year, not while the prospect of visiting loved ones now sits on the horizon.

2. Risk remains

Let’s not forget that we’re still wearing masks and people are still dying. It’s a hard truth to face, but variants of the virus are the big question mark hovering over the world at this point.

Traveling and moving can be safe while minimizing the risk, but any destination considering a remote working scheme needs to take all logistics into consideration to help sell it so that potential participants will have less hesitation. Small cities like Tulsa and Chattanooga, rife with outdoor spaces and less dense living, are apt to do just that while attracting top talent.

New in-nation, temporary relocation, programs will likely be more successful than new travel abroad programs in 2021.

3. Is it really working?

One study by the World Economic Forum suggests that too much remote working can actually have deleterious effects on efficiency. A recent report from Bucknell University also provides insight into how workers feel regarding their output. The takeaway? It’s not all great.

Working from home – or a home – certainly has its perks, but the long-term effects on a company, the sociability of its workers, the communication needed to function well, and overall efficiency may not be something to celebrate.

So, while working remotely was exhilarating at the onset of a lockdown, a year on, employers seem less likely to support workers who want to make the leap into new countries, states, or time zones. Destination marketing organizations should consider whether shorter-term programs instead of full relocation programs are a solution to this challenge. But at that point, people might just want to stop, take a vacation, and enjoy your destination without thinking about work!

4. Mental health and Zoom fatigue

Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking we like sitting on Zoom all day. As nice as it is to be relaxed and cozy at home, humans are social creatures and video conferencing is taking its toll.

NBC reported recently the heightened levels of stress for students working remotely, and a Stanford study dives into the negative effects of Zoom on workers. It’s clear that we’re all adapting mostly to the new work situation, but that doesn’t mean we’re loving it.

Pushing a remote program now may still provide a temporary fix – a beach, a new city, a new environment – but the underlying issues of working alone, isolated, and in front of a screen all day without a break is not altered.

Trying to get workers into the office safely even once a week could help change that, but that means keeping a workforce local and not engaged in a remote working program.

5. Too trendy to trend?

Finally, the trend may just be over. If every destination starts offering a remote working program, will anyone care anymore? Doubtful. Like the cat cafés or cereal bars of yesteryear, a proliferation of programs will make them less desirable and unique. Too much trend kills the trend, and while they are still healthy and robust options to consider, a new remote working programs needs to stand out from the herd.

Financial incentives can be a way forward. Tulsa Remote offers a $10,000 stipend for workers who move for a year to Tulsa. Still, short of offering money to participants, or a paradise-like setting, any new remote working programs need to innovate to succeed. It’s not impossible to create something new and exciting, but it is necessary at this point to keep this trend trending.

Looking to consider creating a remote working program in your destination? It’s best to be smart about it! Tap into DCI’s 60 years of experience by contacting Karyl Leigh Barnes at [email protected] to learn how you can be innovative in your approach to catch the eyes of potential remote workers.