An inside look at remote work & coworking in South Lake Tahoe

Working remotely has existed for many employees and industries in some form for decades. However, in 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the world of remote work. News about the increase in work-from-home, work-from-anywhere, and remote work in general has dominated the business and mainstream news since. 

But what does it mean to do “remote work”?

Remote work, defined loosely, is any part of a job that is done while not physically colocated with all coworkers at a company office or facility. In other words, if you are not able to tap a coworker on the shoulder every time you need to ask a question, you are working remotely. This workforce trend has seen a steady increase in adoption as technological advances and corporate strategies continue to shift towards more flexible and distributed options. 

Prior to the 2020 pandemic, the share of American workers “working from home” had already been steadily increasing, according to data collected by the US Census Bureau as part of the American Community Survey.  Research conducted by Global Workplace Analytics concluded that an estimated 75 million workers in the US could work from home multiple days per week based on the requirements of their job positions. This staggering number accounts for 56% of the non-self employed workforce.

There are many benefits to remote work including a broader range of job opportunities, more access to higher wage earning positions for workers in secondary and rural economic regions, and increased flexibility and autonomy compared to in-person office roles. Additionally, there are indirect benefits on the environment due to a decrease in vehicle miles traveled and a savings in carbon emissions, as well as a higher rate of disaster resilience for corporations that can rapidly shift to fully remote operations.

Defining Remote Work

To understand the impact of remote work, as well as its opportunities, it is useful to clarify what remote work is and what it isn’t.

For example, there is a common misperception that working remotely is the same as working from home. However, “Work From Home” (WFH) is just one option of many for workers not working full time from a physical company office. 

Many “remote” workers may, whether for a few days a week or full time, work from spaces outside their homes or a primary company office. These additional workplace options include spaces such as satellite offices provided by an employer, coffee shops, libraries, hotel lobbies, or coworking spaces. Coworking spaces in particular can provide a more permanent, but still flexible, office solution by offering drop-in workspace as well as permanent desk or private office space as well as space to take phone calls or hold meetings.

What does remote work look like from South Lake Tahoe’s coworking spaces?

A complete picture of community members working remotely in Tahoe may be difficult to attain given both how quickly the landscape is changing, as well as the variety of those working from home, or from coffee shops, or from scattered office spaces across the South Shore. However, we can provide a glimpse of what it looks like inside our community’s coworking spaces.

Cowork Tahoe, located in the former Tahoe Daily Tribune building in South Lake Tahoe, provides coworking and office space on the California side of the South Shore. First opened in May of 2014 as Tahoe Mountain Lab on Ski Run Blvd., Cowork Tahoe was the first coworking space to open within the Tahoe basin; and has built a strong membership and community presence in the course of its more than  eight years of operation.

Untethered Workspace, located in the Round Hill Shopping Center, is the first coworking space on the Nevada side of the South Shore, and the first of its kind in Douglas County. In less than a year of operations, Untethered has already created a vibrant coworking community serving businesses on the Nevada side of the stateline.

Who is working from these spaces? 

Companies spanning industries from technology to professional services, construction to non-profits. A diverse group of professionals from architects, financial advisors, nutritional consultants, realtors, attorneys, mortgage brokers, environmental and  software engineers, marketing professionals, corporate employees to small business owners. Over 250 community members representing more than 90 companies work from these two spaces.

Are all of these workers “remote workers”? 

The majority of members are actually local workers, either working for a local company with an office located at one of the coworking spaces, or directly serving customers in the local community. Approximately 25% of members across both spaces fit what most people think of as “remote workers.” More than two-thirds of the members at Cowork Tahoe work locally, and that number rises to 90% of members at Untethered. There are members that were born at Barton that now work remotely, there are long time small business owners, as well as new residents that have all joined the coworking spaces to better connect and embed themselves in the local community through their workspace.

What these members all have in common is they are all part of a diverse Tahoe economy, one that is not as susceptible to the volatility of tourism. Additionally, they are part of a nationwide trend towards flexibility in how and where we work. Remote work is ultimately about choice. That means choosing to be part of this mountain community as much as it means choosing to work from home a few days a week, or from an office, or sometimes even the beach.