Every time my partner, Patrick, and I visited Bend over the last five years, we’d open Zillow on our phones and ponder, “When are we moving here?” The answer came last October when he landed a job at Heart of Oregon Corps. He started almost immediately from Portland and moved to Bend soon after. I stayed in Portland, not ready to leave my role with The School of Business at Portland State University.
I worked from Bend regularly over the next several months until it was decided that I could telecommute full-time with monthly trips to Portland. I could still fulfill my responsibilities, and my team was confident they would still get the leadership and support they need. It was a rewarding moment for me — I didn’t have to sacrifice a job I love in order to prioritize my personal life.
Bend leads the nation with 12% of its workforce telecommuting. I officially joined this statistic on March 16, the same time Oregon leadership was rolling out strong measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Days later, most of PSU, along with most of the country, was working and learning from home. Seemingly overnight, that 12% was obsolete.
Full-time remote work is uncommon at PSU. Like many other organizations responding to COVID-19, there was an enormous amount of change in a short amount of time. Marketing and communications can be fairly easy to do from afar, and my team already had project management tools, processes and workflows in place that are conducive to the “new normal.”
The change is felt more deeply among faculty and staff who teach and serve our students face-to-face every day. I’m inspired and energized by the way everyone has come together to make it work and lend a hand. Our student-first mentality is stronger than ever, even when we may be struggling personally. And our vision to redefine business and transform lives is showing up in ways we couldn’t have imagined.
Through the challenges and uncertainty, it’s a pleasure sharing my transition to remote work with PSU’s passionate, dedicated and caring community. Crises can bring people closer, even when we’re six feet apart. While the way we work may feel different, it carries forward with the same steadfast commitment to student success.
My first weeks in Bend aren’t quite how I envisioned, but Patrick and I are together — along with our dog, Goose — in our new home/co-working space that is happy, healthy and safe. We’re finding joy in life’s simple pleasures and are grateful for all we have. For now, it’s more than we could hope for.
Erin Merz is the Director of Marketing and Communications for The School of Business at Portland State University. She is a purpose-driven marketing and communications professional with 15 years of experience.