Mike Fair is living his dream of retirement on a lake in Maine while working full time managing cybersecurity for his Ohio-based employer.
Fair, associate vice president of information security at Victoria’s Secret, started working from home at the start of the pandemic while still living in Columbus, Ohio, home of the multinational women’s lingerie company. He soon realized, and to his surprise, that he was very efficient outside of the office.
This quickly led to more ambitious plans with his wife and three teenagers, who are homeschooled.
“It made me think, ‘if I can do it from my home in Columbus, I could do it somewhere else, like a house by a lake,'” he said. “We started to see it a bit differently. “
Fair’s remote working is part of a major shift triggered by a pandemic at businesses nationwide to determine whether or how many employees should be in the office. As teleworking began during the pandemic, more grassroots workers such as consultants and software developers moved to Maine for security reasons as they continued to work for companies across the country.
More recently, this trend has spread to the executive suite, where managers like Fair report to both head office and manage remote staff teams. This wider geography also helps companies like Victoria’s Secret find scarce cybersecurity talent, essentially bringing the business to skilled workers rather than trying to get them to the home office. The $ 5.4 billion publicly traded company has 25,000 employees and 1,400 retail stores around the world.
Businesses in Maine and across the country are slowly turning to hybrid work models, although most are still experimenting with how best to do it for themselves and their employees, according to a study by McKinsey & Co.
It is also unclear to what extent companies will embrace fully remote working, which is in its early stages. Few executives believe that corporate culture can survive a purely remote working setup, according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers. However, most said the switch to remote work had been successful and that they planned to invest in more virtual collaboration tools and train managers to manage a virtual workforce.
“Talent is so scarce and such a challenge that some companies are going to incorporate telecommuting into their recruiting strategy and in their ability to retain employees,” said Peter DelGreco, President and CEO of Maine & Co. , an economic development enterprise that attracts businesses to the state.
He said telecommuting was in discussion with senior management at all of the major companies in Maine, but he’s not sure how far it’s adopted. Some jobs do not require a worker to be in the office. But people with less experience may want to go to the office to be mentored, he said.
“It really is a complicated problem that everyone is grappling with,” said DelGreco.
Fair said there was a need to allow telecommuting to some extent due to the shortage of talented workers. However, telecommuting at Victoria’s Secret is based on job requirements and business needs, not necessarily individual preferences.
Fair, who manages 17 people in two cybersecurity teams located outside of Maine, found a home using online realtor websites and moved her family to Lincoln in April, it was the first time that he was setting foot in the state.
From the start, he knew he had his work cut out for both modernizing his new home and preparing an office there. The house was using water from the lake which was not drinkable, so he had to have a well dug to have drinkable water inside. He also planned for power outages in the rural area and a backup of his broadband internet.
“This will be our first winter in Maine so we expect power outages,” he said. Getting a backup generator was important, as was setting up a backup for its Spectrum cable internet. He lives between two cell phone towers, so he will use cellular internet if the Spectrum network goes down.
“Streaming calls take up 30 to 40 hours of my time per week,” he said. “At 6 am I talk to our team in Bangalore, India, and I talk to a salesperson or someone else until 7 pm.
He said the key to being productive is having a dedicated office in the house where he can close the door. But not having a trip gives him more time with his family and access to the lake to enjoy the boat he inherited from his father seven years ago.
“I have always had visions of retirement on a lake and with the pandemic, I realized that I could be as effective in telecommuting as in the office,” he said.