Remote work could be a synonym of the American dream of the 21st century. Why? Because the American dream is all about freedom, the chance to succeed, equality and rights. This term itself was first introduced in 1931 by James Truslow Adams. He was an American writer and historian, who claimed that “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement”. All this is also clearly visible in the Declaration of Independence, according to which everyone has the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness“.
All right, the above paragraph is something we all know. We’ve heard stories about people living their dream life, being successful and developing their careers in the USA… However, it’s now it’s time to dig deeper and find out whether EVERYONE really has a fair chance to lead a happy life during times when many companies are forcing employees to go back to the office. It’s time to check whether notions such as well-being, mental health, opportunity and equality are truly the case in the American society in the 21st century.
Lack of flexibility in America’s biggest cities
Within the past few decades, the status quo has become the following: Renowned companies made investments in city centres to ensure prestigious and modern office spaces. If you wanted to have a career, you’d normally move to a bigger city. A big city meant a big opportunity. Rural areas meant no chance to climb the corporate ladder and become “successful”. This and many other factors have resulted in about 82% of the total American population living in cities and urban areas in 2020. Obviously, such statistics immediately make me think about severe problems and challenges. It’s been that way for decades – traffic jams, air pollution and noise. Cities have tried to overcome issues such as population density by building subways and skyscrapers to consequently “squeeze in” even more.
Suddenly in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a mass exodus. People have started experiencing a different lifestyle. They could have a career and a better quality of life thanks to leaving big cities behind. More and more companies have started introducing their remote or hybrid work policies to accommodate their employees’ new lifestyles. …However, 44% of American companies still don’t allow flexibility but their require people to commute to old-school office spaces. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and my conclusions are that many organisations just want to “return to the old normal” as that status quo seems more convenient.
Let’s briefly take a look at risks that big cities are facing these days. If people keep moving out, there’s certainly a lot to loose. For example New York’s economy clearly depends on skyscrapers. Here, I not only mean high rent but also the entire infrastructure – cafes, restaurants, the subway etc. If companies decide to implement more flexibility, the state will be affected. What’s more, even President Biden urged workers to return to offices by saying “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again” in March 2022.
Mindset shifts are inevitable
It’s always easy to stay in our comfort zones, right? We know our environment well, we can pretty much predict the future this way. Within the world of work, we have a set of rules, regulations and habits that have become no-brainers throughout the years. Everything seems to be in the right order this way. We don’t tend to challenge anything as all seems “good enough” until the moment when there’s a certain trigger. That’s exactly what happened in 2020. We were faced with a completely different approach towards working as the conditions required us to do so. We had to start doing things a different way and literally re-designing our work-life experience.
That’s how we’ve slowly started going through a mindset shift.
According to current statistics, 61% of people who decide to work from home do it because they want to – it’s their choice. However, this was different when the pandemic started as then only 36% actually preferred working from home. 64% of people did it only as offices were closed. It’s interesting to observe how flexible workers claim to have experienced increased productivity and better work-life balance. Also, we can’t possibly forget the family aspect which is most valued by parents who can combine their careers with personal lives much easier.
Can we feel the wind of change?
What’s the future of the American dream with remote work being on the rise? Let’s go back to the famous statement about “life being better and richer and fuller for everyone, with equal opportunities”. Is this country truly open to live by its own values? Is the American status quo ready to be challenged? Will younger generations be able to embrace the digital era to the full? Or is it just going to increase consumption rather than the quality of life? Will technology make cities smarter and also enable people to make choices?
We can all see that the manufacturing industry isn’t on the rise anymore so maybe it’s time to redesign old-school standards to make people’s experiences more meaningful? To me, that’s what it means to be “richer and fuller”. It’s not about participating in a rat race to earn a six-figure salary. Concepts such as well-being, diversity and inclusion or work-life balance are being stressed everywhere these days. So shouldn’t we focus on rethinking the words of the American dream to truly respond to people’s needs? Or are we willing this to become an empty promise because sticking to archaic standards is easier? How can remote work influence a possible change? Let’s give it a thought and do what’s wise rather than easy.