COVID-19 has brought with it an unprecedented shift in how people view work, and how they approach work/life balance. All across the world, office workers are realizing that being in an office at the company headquarters isn’t nearly as important as they thought it was. At the same time, employers are coming to the conclusion that they don’t need 100% of their employees in the office, and that there are significant benefits to allowing workplace flexibility to their workers.
Amidst all of this, there is a growing number of people that aren’t as comfortable as they once were with being in a big city surrounded by large crowds.
I’ve spoken with people all over our valley and Kern County, and we are already seeing the impact of this shift. More people than ever are leaving big cities and choosing to live in more rural settings. The Bakersfield Californian along with several other national publications have recently reported on this trend. The Kern River Valley in particular is very attractive to these new mobile workers – our incredible range of outdoor opportunities, clean air, central location, and ease of access make this area perfect for the office worker that can choose where they work.
The first thing I asked myself when I noticed this trend is whether this is something that we in the Kern River Valley want to have happened. Most of us (myself included) love the small-town feel of our valley, and I for one wouldn’t want to see a population explosion that could alter the charm of our valley.
On the other hand, anyone that is living here, working here, and playing here – but at the same time is collecting a paycheck from a big city corporation creates a direct injection of cash into our local economy. These will also be people that have a vested interest in the beauty and cleanliness of our natural resources, and they will enjoy the outdoor opportunities with a greater appreciation and stewardship for the area compared to someone that only comes up for a few days a year.
What can we do to take advantage of this trend, and put the Kern River Valley in a position to benefit from this demographic upheaval? The first step would be to make sure that we provide amenities that allow these remote workers to succeed in working from here without disruption. This is in fact one of the reasons I founded Kernville Cowork in 2018 in the first place. The next step would be to find creative ways to invite these high demand workers to come to live in our beautiful valley.
There are of course some obstacles for people moving to our valley. Our housing capacity is limited, which could make it hard for people to move into town to find a place to live.
Another factor is internet infrastructure. Kernville Cowork has been fortunate enough to be able to provide stable high-speed internet for office workers in our space, however having access to the internet at fiber speeds at home is a deciding factor for many people that are leaving cities these days. These are difficult but solvable problems, and I think tackling these issues will be critical for ensuring our economic success in years to come.
Justin Powers is the founder of Kernville Cowork, a shared office space where you can work where you play. Justin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.