Remote work continues in Vermont after pandemic

Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 5:03 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - When the pandemic hit, many companies nationwide allowed their workers to go virtual. Some Vermont companies are still remote, and other companies nationwide are too, with employees setting up shop online to do their jobs in the Green Mountains.

Ben Hewitt is a creative director from Stannard who’s worked remotely for decades. But it wasn’t until 2019 that he joined Do North Coworking in Lyndon. Do North Coworking launched in 2018 for folks to gather in-person dynamics while completing their remote jobs.

“It still feels like I have a lot of those benefits of an office,” said Hewitt.

The space has grown physically with the addition of a second floor, but also in the number of people looking for a desk outside their homes.

Program director Jared Reynolds says they’re at 50 members now, 20 of whom joined in the past year.

“We see a ton of demand for quality office space. I mean, immediately both offices filled up and we always have people reaching out. It is a lot more people who had in-person jobs in Vermont and their companies have allowed them to go remote, or they were always remote, but with the pandemic, realize that they would prefer to live somewhere where they have mountain biking and skiing and all these recreational amenities,” said Reynolds.

Vermont has 23 coworking spaces statewide. But as far as how many people are remote, who they’re working for and who switched during the pandemic, Vermont Chamber of Commerce President Betsy Bishop says it’s hard to track.

“We are in a workforce shortage and continue to have that crisis, so employers are trying to be flexible and meet their employees where they’re at. If that means remote work or hybrid work, I think that has continued,” said Bishop.

She says a search on Indeed for Vermont jobs shows about 15,000 openings, 248 of which are remote and 262 of which are hybrid, but she notes that not every job is necessarily listed.

Bishop says remote work gives Vermont companies a broader talent pool to recruit from and can align with the state’s goals to add more people to the population, but it can cause challenges.

“Businesses in Vermont are going to have to compete on wages and benefits on a national scale. We’re seeing that already, which is great for the worker but is a challenge for the small business. The larger the business, the more likely they can compete,” said Bishop.

Another concern with new workplace dynamics is that some employees still have to work boots on the ground, whereas others can work remotely. Regardless, Bishop says she thinks it’s here to stay.

There’s also the question of empty building space belonging to former in-person companies throughout the state, which Bishop thinks will come into play in the next few years as leases begin to turn.