Why Remote Work Can Help Bridge the Hiring Gap, Especially for Rural Professionals Working and hiring remotely can improve the economy and make a difference in people's lives.

By Sara Sutton

entrepreneur daily

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The current job market tilts heavily in the job seeker's favor, with a historically low unemployment rate, more open jobs than professionals to fill them, and more people quitting their jobs than any time in the last 17 years.

However, most of the good news for job seekers is in urban and suburban areas. Rural employment has unfortunately failed to recover as quickly or as well as urban employment since the recession.

One impactful solution to help bring jobs to rural areas is remote work. Remote work can narrow the rural-urban employment gap by providing high-quality, reliable work for people who don't live close to economic hubs. Because there are job opportunities with remote options in almost all professional career fields, it can be a win three times over:

  1. Combining a huge pool of eager, ready, and qualified local workers
  2. Putting them in economically depressed rural communities
  3. Helping employers that need more talent.

Not only do these jobs help the person getting employed, but they can also help lift their families and their communities out of economic stagnation.

Companies finding qualified, loyal workers

In this job seeker's market, businesses are often missing an untapped resource: qualified, loyal workers who just happen to live in rural areas. With remote work, companies can tap into unexpected and otherwise difficult to reach talent pools.

For example, rural eastern Kentucky's unemployment rate is double that of the closest urban areas thanks to the once-dominant, now-shrinking coal industry, but remote work can help reverse the trend.

People use remote work to lift themselves up

We interviewed several residents of eastern Kentucky to find out how having a remote job has impacted their lives

"My husband and I both have college degrees," Jennifer of Jackson County, Kentucky says. "But there's not enough money to go around, not enough jobs to go around. It looked pretty gloomy for a while." Because of her remote job as a teacher for VIPKID, Jennifer says she's paid off credit cards they used to live off. "It's great to be making a change and to see the light at the end of the tunnel."

Maria from Harlan County says remote work completely changed her circumstances. "Just a year ago, I was in the projects taking care of my mom," she says. She now works as a customer service representative for Concentrix, "and I just bought a piece of land and I'm building a home. In a year. It's changed my life."

Bringing employment and hope to communities

Remote work can restore opportunity to economically depressed areas, gives employers new sources of talent in a tight job market, and helps families and communities begin anew. It's also a well-suited solution to "a unique set of geographic and economic challenges," says Michael Cornett, the director of Teleworks USA, which has helped over 1,000 eastern Kentucky residents find remote work. "These numbers represent an estimated $25 million in annual wages being brought into the region strictly via remote-work job opportunities."

Remote work holds huge promise for rural residents, companies, and communities. However, more needs to be done. A key piece of this puzzle is high-speed internet, still not ubiquitous in rural areas. Initiatives like AT&T AirGig, the Rural Broadband Association, and Kentucky SOAR are working to bring broadband internet access to rural areas and small towns.

Even so, remote work's rural success so far shows employers that in this competitive job market, leveraging remote workers is a smart choice. It also inspires fellow rural residents and their communities through meaningful work and economic stability.

Remote work offers a triple-win:

  1. Companies connect with qualified, loyal workers.
  2. Workers find jobs and lift themselves out of under- or unemployment.
  3. Entire economically depressed areas are hoisted up in a modern and sustainable way.

Eastern Kentucky resident Maria puts it perfectly: "Work is something you do, and not somewhere you go. It totally changed the way I saw things. I'm really excited about it. I'm looking forward to great things."

Sara Sutton

CEO & Founder of FlexJobs

Sara Sutton is the CEO and founder of FlexJobs, an award-winning, innovative career website for telecommuting, flexible, freelance and part-time job listings, and founder of Remote.co, a one-stop resource for remote teams and companies, and the 1 Million for Work Flexibility initiative. She was named as a Young Global Leader (class of 2014) by the World Economic Forum for her work in technology and the employment fields. Sutton is a graduate of UC Berkeley and currently lives in Boulder, Colo. Sutton is also the creator of The TRaD Works Conference, dedicated to helping companies leverage the benefits of telecommuting, remote and distributed teams.

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