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Remote Work was Up in Charlotte Even Before the Pandemic

By Brian Skewes

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Charlotte went on a growth spurt a few years back. Between 2004-2014, the city was the fastest-growing metro area in the U.S., adding almost 900,000 people during that decade and ending up as the current 23rd largest metro in the country and number two real estate market. The reasons for growth are predictable – booming energy, banking, transportation, and healthcare industries to name a few. And don’t forget NASCAR.

And while Charlotte has always been known as a “bank” town and Raleigh a “tech” city, it appears that Charlotte’s recent growth has put it into position to steal that title, if it hasn’t already. For the tech industry, with its traditionally high percentage of remote workers, that’s good news.

Remote Work is Not a New Thing in Charlotte

Even before the recent pandemic outbreak sent huge swaths of the nation home to work remotely, Charlotte was already at the forefront of this charge. Recent numbers from the Census Bureau peg the percentage of people who work from home nationally at 5%, which is up from 4% in 2013.

By comparison, 7% of Charlotte’s workforce is of the remote variety now, compared to 5% over the same time period. The result of running slightly ahead of the overall pace is that the area is further along in developing an environment that encourages employers and employees to at least explore the idea.

As new tech companies continue to flock to the area (Lowes recently announced a tech hub would move to the city and bring with it 1,600 jobs), expect that the incidence of those who work outside the confines of a traditional centralized office will continue to go up.

Thank the Thriving Financial Industry

Where there are banks, there will be excellent digital infrastructure and Charlotte’s position as a banking hub has been good for remote workers. The reason is simple. The internet and related technologies don’t exist in a vacuum. In order to support these behemoth financial corporations, the entire city has experienced the demand for ever faster and more reliable connections. A recent count revealed at least 20 Charlotte internet service providers, with some offering top download speeds up to 2 Gbps. To paraphrase Han Solo from the original Star Wars: “That’s fast enough for you, old man.”

For work at home citizens of the city who are the benefactors, be thankful the banks decided to come to your hometown.

Remote workers reap other benefits as a result of the banking armada that set up shop in town. When there are lots of jobs to be found, as is the case in Charlotte right now and for the foreseeable future, the employee seizes the upper hand in the eternal struggle between workers and management thanks to a little thing known as leverage. Want to work from home but your boss isn’t hot about the idea?

Drop a little hint that Business X across town is not only hiring but routinely lets employees work from home two days a week. Below the belt? Maybe. The bottom line is that a boss who isn’t responding to logic might just need a little bump in order to give the idea a shot.

When the Kitchen Table Gets Boring…  

A frequent downside to working remotely is that you get tired of the scenery when you spend your work day in the same place where you live. Not everyone minds this but some do. Into the void, Charlotte entrepreneurs have risen to the challenge and created a thriving industry of co-working spaces. In fact, this list offers names and addresses of 108 cafes and spaces that provide the comforts of home minus the barking dog and neighbor mowing his yard every other day.

With Covid-19 raging, it’s probably best to call ahead and find out if a particular space is open and, if so, does the furniture arrangement allow for social distancing? And even if it does, it might be a good time to stay home until life returns to normal, which will be either a matter of weeks, months, or years, depending upon which politician or expert you listen to.

Not every city has this variety of options for those office-less nomads among us who sometimes want a different view. 

The Personal Responsibility Mindset  

Whether your remote work is done in Charlotte, North Carolina, or Shanghai, China, the perks are obvious: 

  • Set your own hours
  • Wear your grungiest clothes or none at all
  • Feel superior to those who have to actually go somewhere to work

But along about mid-morning of your first day working remotely you’ll realize that you still have to do actual work if you want to continue to receive a paycheck. The even crueler realization is that there are ways for the boss to check up on your project progress and if none is apparent, you’re liable to find yourself yanked back into the office faster than something that’s really fast.

So, take this advice and develop a remote work mindset before you even “clock in” from the living room for the first time. You and no one else are accountable for putting in enough time to get the job done. See what we did there? It’s not a matter of putting in time like back at the office. It’s a matter of getting a certain amount of work done.

Common challenges to be met and overcome are working across a variety of time zones, becoming familiar with a host of software and apps from real-time chat (Slack) to daily video conferences (Loom or Skype) to whatever the flavor of the day is next week.

Translating a work day from the office to home requires a mindset shift because the process is vividly different but familiar at the same time.

The Bottom Line

Thanks to the coronavirus, employees who didn’t get laid off or fired found themselves suddenly part of the remote work crowd. This is an idea that has been coming for a while, even before the pandemic, so don’t be surprised if a bunch of management types wake up on the other side and think, “We should have been remotely working all along.”

From the boss side of the desk, it means not having to shell out all the costs that a physical presence generates. We’re talking about rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance, etc. Even if you’re not overly fond of the practice, better make the best of it because it is the future of work.

And if you do like it then bully for you!

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