Oregon workers

Percent of people working at home in Oregon metropolitan areas:

Bend: 9.3 percent

Corvallis: 7.6 percent

Medford: 7.2 percent

Eugene: 5.8 percent

Portland: 6.4 percent

Salem: 4.5 percent

Source: American Community Survey, 2015 five-year estimate

Deschutes County is the new work-from-home capital of Oregon.

The latest American Community Survey statistics show 9.3 percent of workers in the Bend-Redmond metropolitan area work from home, and that share is higher than any other Oregon metro area. Bend overtook Medford, which in 2010 had the largest portion of its workforce based at home at 8.4 percent.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released 2015 results of the American Community Survey, in which one of the questions asks how respondents “usually” get to work. The number of people who say they work at home grew across Oregon, but the work-from-home contingent grew faster than the workforce as a whole in the Bend-Redmond metro area, which encompasses Deschutes County.

And yes, that commute to the spare bedroom is about as stressful as it sounds.

“I enjoy working so much from home, I wonder if I will ever be able to work in an office setting again,” said Randy Broadbent, who has worked for a Montana company out of his house in Bend since 2011. He likes that he can work without interruptions, but he still interacts with clients and colleagues every month because his job requires travel.

Deschutes County had an estimated 6,828 people working from home in 2015, up 28 percent from 5,332 in 2013, according to the American Community Survey. The whole workforce grew 7 percent to 72,800 people over the same period.

Historically, people who worked from home were self-employed, the U.S. Census Bureau has found. Self-employment is strong in Oregon and even more common in Bend, so that is probably still a big factor in Bend’s ranking for home-based workers, said Karla Castillo, analyst at the Oregon Employment Department. Internet technology changed the work-from-home trend, the Census Bureau found. By 2010 about a quarter of people who worked from home were in management, business and financial roles, and home-based work in computer, engineering and science occupations had grown 69 percent over the decade. Most of the leading metro areas were in the Southeast, Southwest and West.

The fact that many professionals in Bend work remotely for out-of-state firms is well-known, said Roger Lee, executive director of Economic Development for Central Oregon. Lee said EDCO plays up the presence of those workers, whose employers include Microsoft, SAP, Google and many others, when talking to airlines about the need for more flights from the Redmond Airport to the San Francisco Bay area.

EDCO has tried to leverage the work-from-home crowd in other ways. The remote workers often move here and bring their jobs with them, and Lee hopes that trend will provide the germ of an official corporate presence, which would in turn generate jobs for Central Oregon. One example so far is Tech Soft 3D, a Berkeley, California, company that designated Bend as its headquarters several years after the CEO moved here. The company, which has offices in several locations, recently began looking for a software engineer to work in Bend.

People who work from home in Deschutes County earn more than home-based workers elsewhere, the American Community Survey shows. The home-based population reported median earnings of $39,307, 26 percent more than a median of $31,152 for the total population.

At the national level, home-based workers reported earnings on par with the national median, and in Oregon, their earnings were below the state median.

If there’s any downside to working from home, Broadbent said, it’s the lack of a corporate connection to the community at large. He considered applying to Leadership Bend, an annual leader-development program by the Bend Chamber of Commerce, but he doubts his employer, which doesn’t have a stake in Bend’s future, would sponsor him.

“There’s a lot of really smart, really talented people that nobody in Bend knows exist because we all work at home,” Broadbent said.

Kyle Kendall, who moved to Bend from the Bay Area in 2005 and works at home for a global software company, said like-minded people seem to find one another, despite the fact that they work from home. “Next thing you know, there’s companies starting up in town, or they grow the company’s presence here because they like it so much.”

Kendall said working from home forced him to decide how to spend his personal time. There are no company parties or outings with co-workers. Instead, most of his friends are parents of his children’s friends, or friends of friends. His passion is music, so he formed bands with other dads.

“The Bay Area, having lived there most of my life before this, it’s a different animal,” Kendall said. “It’s a lot more focused on hours and how much you work and being available all the time.”

Working from home requires discipline, Broadbent said. He is available to the home office by 8:30 a.m. Mountain time. So he has breakfast with his family, drops his son off at school and then goes to work. “I have a home office with a door,” he said. “When I’m in it, I’m at work.”

Broadbent said he worried at first about giving the impression that he was slacking off, so he never missed a phone call or meeting and answered every email immediately. Now his company has about two dozen people working remotely, plus an office in Europe.

Kendall also thinks his company is seeing the benefit of having people work from home.

He doesn’t require as high a salary as he would in the Bay Area, he said, and he’s motivated to work hard. “I’m very lucky my company allows me to work from remote and allows me to live here of all places. I want to stay here as long as possible.”

—Reporter: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com

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