By Katy Brooks, CEO, Bend Chamber
This article originally appeared in The Bulletin on December 26, 2022
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in The New York Times recently that “The Work is not just happening in the workplace.” That’s certainly true here in Bend. A LinkedIn report shows Bend as the No. 1 small city in the country for remote work. Our beautiful landscape, the great outdoor activities and resources for families and retirees have made us a magnet for folks who prioritize their quality of life — and can work from anywhere.
But I worry that many remote workers may be experiencing more isolation or are hesitating from being an active community member. It takes effort to connect with people these days, especially when you don’t have a regular office “water cooler gathering.” If you’re working from home and want to know how to be more involved, know that your community wants that, too.
Remote workers can be new transplants, or longtime residents and are an asset to our community. We need them to volunteer on nonprofit boards, serve on city committees and even run for local office. And they can participate in local business organizations that can connect them more closely to their peers. With 40% of all jobs expected to remain remote post-pandemic, we know that engaging those working remotely will have a more permanent impact on how we interact within our community.
There are lots of ways for the in-home office crowd to get more engaged. An easy avenue is to get involved in a good cause. Oregon was recently ranked the fourth most generous state in America for giving, but involvement goes far beyond a monetary donation. When you give your time great things happen —you meet people and make important human connections.
A good place to start understanding where you can engage in Bend is to attend “Bend 101,” an event for new residents. Go to www.bend101.org to register for the next event. While it’s easy enough to get connected in Bend, the tough part might be choosing which cause to join. So where to start? The website Volunteer Match www.volunteermatch.org lists four ways to choose an opportunity that’s right for you. From individual organizations to umbrella groups like United Way and NeighborImpact, to volunteering for the city of Bend and Deschutes County, there are many ways to be a part of the community.
Here are a few steps that may help narrow down your options:
- Choose a cause that you’re passionate about.
- Find an opportunity that matches your skills, interests, and schedule.
- Upload your volunteer resume to introduce yourself and showcase your skills to the nonprofit of your choice.
- Follow up promptly with the nonprofit after you’ve referred yourself to an opportunity.
- Get out there and become part of our community!
You may also be interested in local business and service organizations. They are a great way for remote workers to engage with peers and with businesses and organizations that are so important in shaping our community. They can also help you grow your own business and create new personal relationships that can help you thrive.
Business and service clubs also give you the chance to establish strong roots in the community. They attract people seeking to be more involved and offer the opportunity to build relationships outside your business and personal circle and to learn from others.
Naturally, I think the Bend Chamber is a great place to get involved. We work collaboratively to solve big issues that impact our workforce, like the lack of child care and housing. Or join our Leadership Bend program that is designed to identify, inform, train and connect new leaders. Opportunity Knocks is another great option for those seeking peer-to-peer business networks.
Finally, don’t forget government and politics. The city of Bend recruits for community members to serve on committees tackling our most important issues, from transportation to affordable housing, human rights and equity. Applications and openings are listed at www.bendoregon.gov/government/committees.
In the coming election cycle there will also be many opportunities to seek office at the state, county and local levels. Political organizations — Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike — are constantly looking for talented people to run for those offices. There are local, statewide and national organizations that offer training for newcomers to the political scene.
Whatever path you choose, the end of the year is a great time for self-reflection on how to be more connected. So remote workers, this invitation is to you. You are welcome here, and we want you to be truly a part of Bend. Get engaged and get involved!