For the past 2 years now, or whoever is keeping track when this whole pandemic began, remote work became prevalent. As vaccine looms, everyone anticipated going back to the office, but that got shut down with the barage of variants that is coming up.
This blog is not about COVID. Nor is it necessarily about remote work itself. It is about the problems brought up with living in a highly dense urban area where everyone thinks the only place where ideas flourished, but riddled with:
- Unaffordable housing.
- Transportation: May it be soul draining traffic or being a sardine in a tin can we call public transit.
- Daycare. Daycare that lasts until teens.
- Polution. May it be fumes from vehicles or noise.
In this article I’ll elaborate how remote work could solve all the problems described above. I’ll end the article with discussion about the nature of remote work itself, such that with recent advances in technology, it is inevitable.
Housing – My Journey
Housing. I lived in a couple of cities here in Canada. I first lived in Vancouver for 3 months when I arrived. Back then we were able to afford an appartment for 900 CAD for a 2 bedroom apartment. A fact that some of you know, is very far from the truth.
Fast forward 11 years later and I graduated University, I went back to Vancouver after being in Alberta for quite a while. I found myself in a Software Developer job, but living in someone’s storage (yes that is right) for 700 CAD a month. The sound of a 1500 CAD or even a 2000 CAD apartment is unthinkable for me then.
2 years later, I had a family and have gained enough experience at work such that I was able to 1500 CAD for a 1 bedroom apartment. Hooray, no more living in a closet! (I’m sure there’s a joke there that I don’t want to touch). Still very expensive, but whatever.
Finally, the whole world faced turmoil with COVID. But I looked at it as a blessing in disguise. We can now work wherever we want! At least, I struck a deal with my employer that I can work remote. I moved 2000 km away from Vancouver, BC to Whitewood, SK. I upgraded my humble 1 bedroom apartment to a 6 bedroom, 1 acre home. For a cheap price of 900 CAD a month. Almost half of what I pay for my apartment!
Housing – The Rest of Us
For the rest of us, housing problems are prevalent on most cities today. I really believe this a much better option.
Better for your kids, they actually have a backyard to play!
You actually have a backyard and not have to awkwardly go down the elevator!
You can do laundry whenever you want and not have to somehow get coins.
You have space to do your hobbies! I personally have a big range of hobbies, some are discovered after owning a home. Gardening, wood working, RV, boating to mention a few. That in addition to a separate home to do my hobby electronics.
Friendly community. It is a known fact that the more urban a place gets, human to human connection simply deteriorate. Here, we all wave to each other as I drive in my town.
Work, you’ll have to hold on to later parts of this article where I talk about implication of effectiveness of collaboration.
Housing is almost no debate. Owning a house away from a metropolis is in any metric, a better choice. Transportation on the other hand is a subjective way. Subjective in that, some kids who grew up in a city, simply never learned how to drive and once they started driving, it is way more stressful.
For us who grew up in a suburban environment, and especially in a country environment, driving is a right of passage. And for me personally, driving is therapeutic.
When I moved to Edmonton, AB from a then small town, Grande Prairie, AB, obviously, everything is busier. And when I moved to a big metropolis, Vancouver, everything is just… a lot of things.
- Rush hour traffic in the highway is almost like sitting in the parking lot. Nothing is moving.
- Parking lot aspect is even truer in the streets
- Parking lot? Good luck finding one. Parking Cost? Prohibitive almost.
Cost is so prohibitive, that we all have to take transit for work.
Transportation – Transit System
When I was a kid, I take the transit to work. All I was thinking then is one day, I don’t want to step on one when I’m an adult and can afford to have a car. That was true for a short amount of time, when I was working in Edmonton, but immediately got smacked down when I moved to Vancouver.
Transit. Lots of waiting and lots of being crammed into tight spaces. Lack of personal space, something you can only get in your own car, something I value a lot. Being a transit, for me, is torture. It feels like it is eating away from my life everyday.
Of course, driving could be even more of a torture depending on where you live. There are countless complaints about traffics in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, or New York.
For me though. Working remote, I don’t have to drive. And if I do drive, I immediately merge to Trans-Canada Highway, so very stress free highway driving. With my Tesla Autopilot working bests on highways, I don’t really even have to drive.
Transportation – Parking
Well, in my case I just don’t have to deal with this. But in my 3 years in Vancouver, I’ve gathered all the parking tickets that you can have from all companies. Most of them is when I have an emergency and I have to drive to work to be there faster, and in the rush forgetting getting ticket. My only regret is I wish I have all the ticket and frame them in my house.
Parking is insane. In big cities, a hazard light is how often people think they can get rid of being an asshole. But it doesn’t really. When I was driving in the city, any hazard light in the middle of the road is met with my long horn. I simply don’t tolerate them.
Transportation – Conclusion
Again, this is a personal preference and depends a lot on circumstance. There are those of us who went through life where driving is a rights of passage and there are those that using a transit is the way of life, so I can’t really argue much about this one. In any case, let us proceed to the section, specially to those planning to have family or have family already. This next section is child care.
Childcare. Oh boy. I have a step child. He came into my life when I was 23. I grew up in prairies in Philippines. I also grew up in prairies in Canada. One thing these prairies have in common is that kids can play, from early age, from relative independence from their parents, safely and in a more healthy way.
Before I paint a picture how bad that is, let us first talk about the finance. My colleagues paid for close to 2K CAD per month on day care for a very young toddler. That is already more than twice my 1 acre home mortgage.
When my son was 8 year old, we are on the cheap price. We have 350 CAD. But day care ends at 5:30 PM. I work at downtown. Everyday, I race to south. I run to the train station. Get off my wife’s work mid-way, where we drive all the way to my son’s work. Everyday, it is a race.
Summer is no where better, we spend thousands in summer camps. And it is even more of a race since they are off at 5PM. I’m done with all of that.
Cities are helicopter parents factory. By law and by necessity. Sure law says keep track of them, take them to school, and so forth. But it is kinda necessary. It is too chaotic in the city. “Kinda” because people in the city applies this until early teens, which is excessive. Just me looking at all of that. I don’t want any part of that.
In the country, kids can go to/from school by themselves. We enforce curfew hours until 5PM for our 9 year old, but other than that, he can go play in his friends house or to the park, whatever they want. I believe this is a much healthier to grow up. Being stuck in an apartment unit until your parents or your overpaid childcare worker take you outside is… hell I don’t want to be a part of. Here, remote work, if you live on a suburban or rural area, is a big win.
Pollution manifest in many ways. The way I see it, pollution are these uncontrollable source of stressors in your environment. May it be from noise or from fumes, they affect us in a negative way.
A quick search on academic publications on the effect of noise pollution on health yields a lot of results. I hear a lot from my colleagues about being awaken by a garbage truck… even on weekends. Not just that though. Just the constant humming and drumming of a metropolitan environment eats on you. Some might’ve gotten used to it. Nonethe less the effects are real.
Studies of occupational and environmental noise exposure suggest an association with hypertension, whereas community studies show only weak relationships between noise and cardiovascular disease. Aircraft and road traffic noise exposure are associated with psychological symptoms but not with clinically defined psychiatric disorder. In both industrial studies and community studies, noise exposure is related to raised catecholamine secretion. In children, chronic aircraft noise exposure impairs reading comprehension and long-term memory and may be associated with raised blood pressure.British Medical Bulletin, Volume 68, Issue 1, December 2003, Pages 243–257
Certainly, utilizing your remote work situation to situate yourself in a suburban or rural country fixes this indeed. The only noise I can think of in my town is train passing, which is very subdued by wall insulation and only happens at most 3 times a day. But overall, the hustle and bustle reduced by ALOT.
The effect of air pollution is pointless to be discussed. We are all the product of PSA against smoking. Just to add to this a little bit. In addition to those deadly toxins from internal combustion engines, brake dust that are generated when disc caliper grip on your disc brake,
cause inflammation of the lungs and reduce immunityhttps://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-51049326
Air pollution exists everywhere, but due to the lack of cars from non-metropolitan environment, it decreases a lot. Being able to relocate to such environment, away from these pollutions, are definitely another advantage of remote work.
I touched on a lot of aspects of life here that changed due to introduction of remote work. I believe I showed that remote work should be an opportunity to live a healthier lifestyle for you and your family. People argue that you need face to face interaction. But trust me, I’ve seen organization that are in disarray and they are face-to-face and a fully remote organization I had a pleasure of experiencing, Intelerad, where the sense belonging and doing meaningful work is orders of magnitude more intense. I truly beleive that, at least for programmers, the pair programming and collaboration is simply more effective with zoom. But I digress. Anyways, I hope you negotiate something similar and I hope you learned something that might benefit you and your family.