Whidbey Island March 25, 2024

Working From Your Remote Whidbey Home

Ah. That’s better. Pardon me as I settle into my favorite chair in the living room with a view of the water. What was the question again? Why work from home? Especially why work from home on Whidbey Island? Even without a view, it can be worth it. Besides, if you’ve bought a house, why not use it? #WorkFromHome is more than a hashtag. Hmm. Maybe it is time to freshen my cup of tea.

Working from home

Working from home existed before Covid. People specifically moved to Whidbey to get away from the traffic of The Big City. They saved hours every workday in changing a commute from something that involved a few thousand pounds of vehicle for whatever fuzzy slippers weigh and cost. They saved money by making breakfast, lunch, and coffee in their kitchen. Looking up from a desk or a computer doesn’t end at a cubicle wall. Depending on the place, it can be the water, a forest, or maybe even mountains. If their house doesn’t have a view, it’s probably a short walk or drive. 

None of that is news. But, the pandemic proved the value of staying home to work. It doesn’t work for everyone. People who make things might still have to go to a factory, assembly plant, or construction site. Office workers with the right company and conditions can operate as long as they have a good internet connection. To Microsoft’s, Google’s, and Apple’s chagrin, Zoom has become the new verb and noun for meeting online because meeting online has become so common. People in offices might be meeting online for global coordination’s. Why not meet from home? Put up an artificial background, and a spare bedroom can look like a penthouse apartment that has a view.

High-speed internet opened a pipeline that allowed #WorkAnywhere, not just #WorkFromHome.

That’s not news specific to Whidbey. Of course, that’s part of the point.

Working from your remote Whidbey home

Another enabler has been commercial flights from the mainland. For years, some islanders have commuted to job sites and client visits anywhere in the world with access to a good enough airport. They had to manage Seattle traffic. Now, flying from Bellingham or Everett negates the need for downtown traffic. Get a ride on the airport shuttle, and you don’t even have to worry about driving or parking. Remember that Amtrak runs by the island, too. Catch a couple of ferries and be in Canada. 

Whidbey isn’t as isolated as it was, and yet, it is remote enough to be quieter, slower, and more relaxed. Sure, we get sirens, but probably not as many as in some mainland neighborhoods.

The thanks to the enablers don’t stop there. Delivery services like USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc. mean supplies get delivered to your house, and things you need to send have options for how to get there, wherever there is.

Working from home can have its limits. The island does have business centers with their high-capacity printers and some supplies. That trip may require a drive, but the traffic should be more manageable. Also, keep in mind the services available from our libraries. Sno-isle Libraries can fill in gaps thanks to their high-speed internet, printers, meeting rooms (check for rules and schedules), and generally quiet meeting places. 

Speaking of meeting places, particularly ones that are more commercial, be glad the island has so many coffee shops. Some even come with meeting spaces to rent for more commercial meetings, privacy, or solitude. And, of course, coffee. Maybe even tea and juice. The concept of working from coffeeshops is common enough that buying a cup of your favorite beverage can be like renting a table for a while. They’re running a business, too, so enjoy the expertise of the barista, the indulgence of good baked goods, and the fact that someone else will do the dishes. Start with breakfast or stay through lunch or dinner and remove those distractions. Or, skip the coffee and meet and work over a glass of beer or wine, and maybe a late day meal.

Check around. Enough people are working from home, or at least from the island, that co workspaces have popped up. They tend to provide some office services, and can be great places for networking and collaborations.

Got a bigger event?

The island is known for hosting seminars and conferences. Rent a space and find that attendees might prefer traveling to an island instead of a generic hotel backroom by some airport. Some sites are even listed as retreats, and retreating can be just what a group needs. Who knows? Maybe they’ll like Whidbey enough to make it a more frequent destination. Maybe they’ll even move here. Bring them to you.

The island isn’t a workers’ utopia.

It will work for some but not for all. Whidbey is Whidbey, which means stories about the bridge, ferries, power outages, and other island quirks. But then, no place is perfect. 

In the meantime, boats and whales are cruising by. Calls from our varied wildlife outcompetes our occasional sirens and rare horn honking’s. Ah, there’s the sunshine. OK. Time to take a break for another cup of something, and time to quit looking down at a computer and look up to see if there’s a rainbow. And, there’s that delivery I’m waiting for. Maybe some exercising and stretching. That explains the sweats. Oh yeah, and there’s making a dinner that benefits from more preparation than hitting Start on the microwave. Work? Yes. But life is more than just that. Might as well live where you want to live, and fit work in around that. 

If you’d like to brainstorm your ideas about working from Whidbey with some local expertise let us know and we will connect you!

Real Estate January 22, 2024

Working On Whidbey

Are you thinking of moving to Whidbey and wondering what working on Whidbey looks like? We’re not all retirees. Of Island County’s ~87,700 residents, ~28,000 residents have full-time jobs. (EDC Island County Profile 2020) The Navy accounts for ~11,000, so estimate that total at ~39,000. There are many retirees, children, and people employed part-time or not at all. One answer doesn’t fit all. Keep reading for the details.


The Navy Dominates

The Navy is the largest employer by thousands. If you live in or around Oak Harbor, they are hard not to notice. Some people in the military live as far south as Clinton. Others are quite far off-island and commute 45 minutes or more. Take a look at a map and notice the roads heading to the big blank space just north of Oak Harbor. Not everyone working on base are military personnel. Military bases tend to have a little bit of everything, including jobs for civilians. The base is why the Island’s population is concentrated on the north part of the island. It is also the reason there are so many businesses and jobs around it.

Airplanes Need Built

Ironically, the next biggest employer of islanders is also dealing in airplanes but is not on the Island. Boeing’s Everett plant builds the wide-body jet airplanes people are familiar with. Approximately 900 Boeing employees commute to the plant. That’s more than four times the number Walmart employs on the Island, and no on-island business is bigger. Boeing is only one example of off-island employers with island commuters. Over 35% of Island County’s employees leave the county to get to work. Some may have switched to “Work From Home”, but those jobs are in flux as employers and employees maneuver around each other while trying to find that remote vs. on-site balance. 

Keep in mind, much of this data includes Camano Island because the government reports cluster data by county, as in Island County, rather than by geography, as in by island.

So, where is everyone else working on Whidbey?

As we noted, the Navy dominates with 63% of the workforce. The next biggest batch is 20% from governmental jobs like schools, city, county, state employees and hospitals. Then comes the private companies. The ones with more than ~50 employees add up to ~17%. Those three segments add up to ~100% but miss a large contingent that is harder to track. The number of people employed by small companies and entrepreneurs is about 6,000. 

Understanding what works on Whidbey is different from what works in more conventional places, like big cities. Island County is officially designated as a rural county. Farm payrolls shift dramatically. Whidbey Island also has officially declared spaces that are Creative Districts. Wander around Whidbey and notice the many artists, studios, galleries, public displays, events, and performances. They also have supporting businesses supplying them with supplies, services, marketing, and such. Artists and farmers are so busy tending their projects and fields, and tend to be soloists, which means dutifully reporting data easily gets out-prioritized.

Is remote working on Whidbey a possibility? 

While remote work may be a new thing for much of the world, Whidbey has also held a population of people who live here and commute to the rest of the world. Negotiating a deal in Kuala Lumpur? Your house address isn’t as important as having an airport available. Thanks to the Island’s connections, SeaTac (south of Seattle), Paine Field (close to the Clinton Ferry), and Bellingham’s international airport, a flight can be a drive, bus ride, or shuttle trip away. Canada’s even close enough that some will fly out of Vancouver’s airports when the flights are right. It is hard to track such travelers because they may be employed anywhere.

Sometimes the employers come to us, like when a movie or ad is being filmed here, or a retreat is being hosted here.

It is too easy to label such a big island with the impact of one employer. The Island has hundreds, thousands. We even have a boat builder and a few colleges.

And, of course, people move here and bring their businesses with them, or move here, and the island inspires their next enterprise. 

But, retirement, or at least a sabbatical, that can work well for Whidbey too.

For a more in depth look at the data you might like to geek out on the Economic Development Council’s Island County Profile for 2020 by clicking here

If you are considering a move to Whidbey and would like to discuss this in more detail and are not currently working with an agent connect with us to start the conversation.