Working from home is a dream that has been around since the early days of the Internet, but increasingly sophisticated technology is making that dream a real possibility for a growing number of people.
Taking a unique approach, the City of Penticton is capitalizing on what the area offers remote workers and their families.
“We all know that we have a great lifestyle here and what we want to do now is position ourselves as a great place to move your job to,” said Riley Gettens, who is working with Penticton’s economic development office on the project.
Many cities sell themselves as a lifestyle location in their bids to attract workers, families and people to help the community grow. Lifestyle is certainly a part of the campaign Penticton is launching this week, but the city is the first to centre its campaign around the possibilities of working remotely.
The idea grew out of a recognition of the trailing spouse issue, especially when trying to attract badly-needed professionals and skilled workers to the area.
While one partner might be offered a dream job in Penticton, it might come at the cost of their spouse leaving an equally fulfilling career behind.
Working remotely, either at their old job or a new career, might be a solution for spouses, said Gettens. The campaign launched this week goes further than that, promoting the city to people that are thinking of making the jump to virtual work, or already have.
Derek Badger, who works for Johnson and Johnson’s pharmaceutical division as manager of government affairs in Western Canada, came to the city in 1999.
“I have the best of both worlds. I get to live in Penticton, where quality of life is off the charts,” said Badger.
In doing so he also spends time with his children.
“It’s so easy with all of their activities. I can duck out to the school for a few minutes if I need to … take them to soccer, swimming, whatever it is. There is great Wi-Fi at the community centre.”
Penticton boasts a number of remote workers, many use Cowork as their office. They hold a range of jobs from freelance writers, a sleep and parenting consultant, a technical writer, team leaders for IBM and Intel and a number of people managing their own startup companies from tech to publishing.
The stories they share offer many commonalities, like escaping the high costs and fast pace of urban centres or desiring a better lifestyle for themselves and their families. What they found in Penticton was that and more; lack of long commutes meant more time with family, and the flexibility of work allowed opportunity to enjoy life more fully and interact with the community.
“The people that I have met have been so open. I have such a good experience,” said Cindi Goodjohn, who runs an online business, DiscProfiles. “Coming here and being a part of the community so quickly, feeling so involved, with my kids and with Cowork, it’s been great.”
These first-hand experiences the workers are telling are what the city’s economic development department hopes to capitalize on to draw even more remote workers to the area.
Thomas Stringham is founder and creative director of Hot Tamali, the marketing firm hired by the city to handle the new campaign. He said there is a large demographic of people like him, living in large cities, and thinking of making a move, but not aware of the possibilities.
“We want to change that mentality for people. There are a lot of people out there who would take that leap if it got on their radar,” said Stringham, adding that Penticton has that ultimate lifestyle.
“It’s kind of a dream destination for people that fall into the working demographic we are in, living in downtown Vancouver with an extremely high cost of living, trying to raise a family, trying to do different things, but don’t want to sacrifice your career.”
Stringham said attitudes about remote working are changing.
“I think if you went to a lot of these employers five years ago, 10 years ago and suggested that ‘hey, you don’t want to lose a valuable employee, I am going to go live in the Okanagan, buy a winery and you are going to keep me,’ companies would be more hesitant,” said Stringham.
The campaign focuses around a website, pentictonworks.ca with an associated ad campaign and social media component under the hashtag #PentictonWorks, featuring the experiences of workers.
“For this to be really successful, it wouldn’t be so much about us, or about creating nice little banners ads, but to tie all those connection points you have with your target audience to authentic stories.
“It is a long term strategy for the city.”