At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic remote work became a necessity. But as health restrictions have lessened, remote work maintains its popularity in Durango.
Durango Space Co-Founder Jasper Welch said working remotely has given employees a better work/life balance, and that attracts talent.
“People don’t feel like they’re in a prison,” he said about working in a traditional office space.
Through discussions with remote workers at Durango Space, Welch said the workers found themselves more productive because they weren’t working in a mundane office space where they are constantly monitored.
He said the access to other flexible work spaces such as R Space and Tech Flex present opportunities for remote work to become more prominent in Durango.
Tech entrepreneur Kevin Miller has worked remotely for eight years. He moved to Durango a year and a half ago but worked mostly out of his RV before that. He offers coding and cybersecurity services to a variety of companies, most notably Rapid VPN. He works in a remote work space offered by Durango Space.
Before, Miller worked in an office for tech companies in Atlanta. He became interested in remote work after taking a company trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The trip made him want to explore around the country, and working remotely allowed him to do so.
“We bought an RV and started traveling for six years,” he said. “I wanted to get out and see things. Like death started becoming a real thing. Friends of mine started passing away and I wanted to work on my own time.”
Productivity is often questioned when discussing remote work. Miller said productivity really depends on the person and their job. He uses a salesperson as an example for a position that may not thrive in a remote environment because competitiveness can drive their productivity.
“Then there’s people that don’t want to work like that,” he said. “One of my former companies, our entire sales staff thrived off each other.”
He said remote work is popular among those in tech industries because they thrive on working by themselves.
“Like, some of your brightest minds are not socializers, right? They’re very focused and they just want to be in their own little world,” Miller said.
He sees remote work expanding in Durango because the community tries to regulate the town’s expansion by limiting big name companies. Because there are fewer in-person jobs, it creates a need for people to either work remotely or move somewhere else.
“I do see a lot of people wanting to move here,” Miller said. “And I think that remote work is going to be the way that they get it done.”
Base Medical, which offers educational courses for wilderness first aid, is a Durango company that works completely remote.
Base’s Chief Executive Officer Teal Harbin said remote work was seen as a luxury before the pandemic.
“It was definitely something that was a very foreign concept, right? But now after the pandemic, that's when it seems that more individuals have the option to work remotely,” she said.
She said the remote work lifestyle is not for everyone, but for people with families it is a popular choice. She has many employees who work while taking care of their children, which she said increases the popularity of these job opportunities.
“I’m a single mom and I’m raising a 2-year-old, and working remotely allows me the flexibility if he’s sick and has to stay home from day care,” Harbin said.
Along with remote work, camper vans also became a popular trend during the pandemic. Many people used these vans to work remotely and the trend has maintained its popularity as well.
VanLab team member Andy Barber said the demand for camper vans has not fallen off. Because of product shortages, the company hasn’t been able to receive vans to build out.
While he said many choose to work remotely in the vans, more people have chosen to live in them because of increased cost of living.
“There’s a certain age level where people are living in a vehicle and working remotely and it’s because they don’t have a dream of buying a home because the price is so out of touch anywhere. It's just extremely expensive to rent or buy,” he said.
Wanderful Wheels Custom Campervans is another company that completes van build outs. While many choose to build out a van for vacation reason, owner Colleen O’Brien said about 15% of her customers are people who work remotely from their van.
“We really enjoy those clients because there’s a lot more that goes into it because you want it to work your everyday life for the long term,” she said.