Bayfield County is the first community in the state to earn the Telecommuter Forward! Community Certification, which sends a message to national employers and to Wisconsin residents that the county is a welcoming home to telecommuters.
Telecommuting, or the ability to use internet and telephone services to work from home, has seen tremendous growth in recent years. In fact, a 2017 survey by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics found that nearly 4 million U.S. employees worked from home at least half the time last year. That’s a 115 percent increase since 2005.
Having workplace flexibility allows more people to live where they want, regardless of their employer’s location. A survey from global staffing firm Robert Half shows that workplace freedom is especially appealing to millennials.
Overall, 77 percent of the people Robert Half surveyed said they would be more likely to take a job if they could telecommute at least some of the time. But a whopping 86 percent of people from age 18-34 felt this way.
In addition, telecommuting is currently the most common among baby boomers.
That’s a trend Bayfield County is keeping in mind as they reach out to telecommuters and as they work to keep younger residents in the area.
“I feel that both boomers and millennials are very much in play for these types of jobs,” says Scottie Sandstrom, executive director of the Bayfield County Economic Development Corporation. “We especially want to focus on attracting and keeping as many millennials here as possible.”
The FlexJobs survey found that telecommuters also tend to have access to higher-paying jobs and are more likely to have a college degree. The study found that the average annual income for telecommuters is $4,000 more than for the workforce in general. Likewise, 53 percent of telecommuters have at least a college degree, compared to 37 percent of non-telecommuters.
The options to work remotely are also more prevalent in certain industries. U.S. employees working for the military or in computer and mathematical fields are more than twice as likely to telecommute than the workforce as a whole.
In Bayfield County, expanded broadband infrastructure has already made the region a fertile ground for telecommuting. Local residents use the robust online infrastructure to work in website design, health care, customer service, financial planning, and even for defense contractors outside the state.
As word of the county’s Telecommuter Forward! designation spreads, Sandstorm only expects those employment options for local residents to increase. “We haven’t identified all the jobs that will be available yet, but I think the sky is the limit,” he says.