This article, written by myHR Partner President & CEO Tina Hamilton, originally appeared in an article for the Morning Call. Read the full column here

It seems not long ago when Facebook was promoting a super-cool work environment with free food and snacks. Google installed sliding boards to get to different floors in the building and Segways to get around its massive campuses. MillerCoors offered — what else? — onsite pubs for their employees to get a full “brand experience.”

As we move to being in the office less and employees having the option to live and work anywhere, I wonder how remote working will affect the office environment here in the Lehigh Valley.

My last column addressed organizations going to a remote working or hybrid (part remote, part in the workplace) environment. How will this change the workplace dynamic? If some time in an office is expected, what will make employees leave their homes to come to work?

In almost every employee survey about why they come to work at a company and why they stay, the presence of like-minded people is usually rated highly. People want to know that they’ll fit in.

However, what if they are not physically at the workplace? I suggest that connecting like-minded people is still relevant — and maybe even more relevant — and that companies will need to work harder to create opportunities for connection on a personal level in addition to their professional interactions. It won’t happen organically around the water cooler. That includes how employees connect with management and get to learn the management style of the organization.

As companies operate with remote employees, does it even matter where they are located? That comes down to how often they would like staff to report to the office and their willingness to transport remote employees into the office when needed.

For companies that never need to fly or transport people into the office, the answer is easy. And for now, that might be the case for most companies. As time passes, will organizations find that they need (or want) the team in the office more often? Will the cost of transporting employees for face-to-face functions become more expensive than having a central office space where employees are expected to work all or some of the time?

There’s no set answer now. It will vary from company to company, culture to culture. And workplaces evolve. Early in the pandemic, many traditional companies were embracing the completely remote workplace. Twelve months later, many are experiencing issues that they think can be fixed with a partial or full return to the office.

But considering that some level of remote working is likely here to stay, a question is posed to communities: How will you attract businesses in this new reality?

A fascinating article by Bloomberg states that cities will be attracting employees with quality-of-life perks rather than attracting companies with tax incentives, which has been their focus for decades.

They highlight New Orleans, which is hoping to expand its tourism-heavy revenue base and increase its pull with tech workers. The Crescent City has developed a campaign titled the “NOLA Workstyle” to stimulate economic diversification. The article also highlights Bentonville in northwest Arkansas, where Walmart is headquartered, which is incentivizing remote workers to move there in exchange for $10,000 and a bike. The city received over 25,000 applications for the grant.

Should this trend continue, coworking spaces could be the big winners. A movement toward combined living and coworking spaces is starting to take hold. More than ever before, communities need to attract people with universal benefits: walkable communities, the arts, access to outdoor activities, unique indoor destinations and more.

We are on an interesting journey. I look forward to seeing how things evolve and change.

At the end of it all, organizations need to thrive. If employees can be remote or partially remote, then employers can be remote too. Choosing the best place to do business may come down to the personal choices of the executives who run the companies, but with each employee having a say about their own work location. That’s a huge change from only 15 months ago.