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Goodbye homes; hello “mobile” homes

 Cover story 

By Chuck Woodbury

Earlier this month, Rite Aid opened a new, modern 25,000-square-foot headquarters in Philadelphia. It’s a “collaboration center,” not a traditional office with cubicles and individual spaces. Instead, it’s a place for employees who work mostly from home to gather on occasion for person-to-person collaboration.

Meanwhile, Amazon has postponed its plan to construct six high-rise office buildings in Bellevue, Washington, and paused work on a 20-story tower in Nashville, Tennessee. A total of 30,000 planned jobs will not be shelved: Most employees will choose to work at home, not commute to an office. So, reasons Amazon, are the new facilities really necessary?

A friend of mine, an HR director for a health care company, told me recently that most job applicants she interviews these days wants to work remotely, not at an office. Here in Seattle, that avoids wasting an hour or two (or longer) a day stuck in traffic!

Some remote jobs require “checking in” on a regular basis, but others require no such thing. The employee can work from wherever they wish.

Where I’m going with this

When I say “work at home,” I could also say “work from a home that moves,” which would define an RV, right? Do this the next time you attend an RV show: Sit on the couch in a large motorhome or fifth wheel trailer and wait. Observe the couples who walk in. It will not be long before one person says, and enthusiastically: “I could live in this!”

RVs today can be THAT comfortable! High-end models can be as comfortable as a traditional home. But they have one thing a traditional home does not have: wheels! And in most cases, the RV is more affordable than buying or renting a sticks-and-bricks home or apartment. Why wouldn’t a person with a sense of wanderlust choose to live in one of these and combine business and travel? There is no question in my mind that there will be an explosion of such mobile workers in the years to come.

How many of us have already found ourselves camped next to such a person in an RV park? I’ve met many. On my last trip I recall a man who worked in tech support for his company. Another managed a customer service call center. Then there are workers whose jobs move from place to place—traveling nurses, pipeline and construction workers, wind machine technicians. And, of course, there are the self-employed who do their own thing, whatever and wherever that may be.

Marc Bennett of RVlove.com found space in his slideout for his office.

And now, the rub

I believe there are two broad types of RVs these days: campers and mobile homes. The first are generally inexpensive and made for outings, the second for living. Every year, manufacturers compete to top each other with new bells and whistles to their “luxury” models. The results are increasingly comfortable rolling homes that can be easily driven from place to place.

If you think RV parks are crowded today, just wait for the invasion of such mobile, remote workers who will occupy “campsites” that were once available to overnight and short-term guests. It’s only a matter of time before word gets out in a big way about this. Just watch.

Can enough new RV parks be built to keep up with this mobile army of workers? What do you think? Please leave a comment.

Photos courtesy of Mark and Julie Bennett of RVlove.com

##RVT1063

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Mark
5 days ago

Wishful thinking. Once the pandemic is in the rearview mirror companies will require the vast majority of their employees to be in the office at least 2-3 days a week. Self employed workers will not fall into that group. All others are being misled by articles like this one and if they are spending a lot of money on their rapidly depreciating mobile homes then they are on a fools errand.

Troy
5 days ago

As a tech worker who can work remote, our plan since the kids are gone is to move downmarket and use some of the profit to buy an RV so that we can get out of the PNWet winters. But I’m not enthused about being stuck in an RV park, so finding the right RV that can be mostly off grid while carrying mtn bikes and paddle boards is kinda tough, but I know I’ll find something, it’ll just take awhile.

Drew
8 days ago

This lifestyle will work for a select few who have just the right kind of job and family situation but as some have already said, their numbers are limited. We know they are out there because we have parked next to some of them. However, this past year we saw more RV Parks restrict stays to 3 weeks, a month and 2 months. May be a trend to watch.

Neal Davis
8 days ago

I certainly don’t dismiss your forecast, but I withhold judgement. Your argument is based on facts. That is, before I retired from a federal white-collar job, I saw numerous new-hires stick around for 2 or 3 years and go elsewhere. They had a much greater taste for movement than I ever developed. Similarly, they “did” things, lots of things, rather than “acquire” things (beyond those necessary for them to do whatever). Such a personality seems very likely to be drawn to movement, including movement of their residence. An RV certainly fills that bill. So, I tentatively agree with you. Either way, I enjoyed reading another article from you!

Cher from Tennessese
10 days ago

I worked remotely for the medical field (cancer data abstraction) for 2 years. Because of strict security requirements, I could only use a hard-wired internet connection. It also needed to be fairly robust. I don’t think most RV parks have this type of network available.

You have to be VERY CAREFUL in handling people’s private health information. My former company had an entire IT department who fended off bad actors trying to get health data. Healthcare companies are a prime target for hackers. I can’t see some of these wireless connections working for healthcare. I haven’t researched things like Starlink. Just seems like many companies would not go for it.

Darla Baker
10 days ago

Regarding RV parks, I’m hoping for WeWork style RV parks to start popping up. I’ve worked remotely almost all of my 40 year career. I’d like to start working from remote destinations. But campgrounds for recreation are not necessarily set up for working. I need excellent internet. I may need other office amenities like printers or copiers. I may want meeting space. Or a break room. My “office” may be mobile, but I may also want other office and even life conveniences handy as I travel so that I can concentrate on work without having to forage for all the other services and supplies to meet my needs each time I travel to a new location. I want a WeWork RV club to join that has all this set up for me in awesome destinations. Do I want too much? Or is this a brilliant business opportunity?

Virginia Thompson
10 days ago

I would add a third category; those who live in their RV while traveling around seeing the country; not full time living, not what I consider a ‘mobile home’ but more than just a week-ender.
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Ron H.
10 days ago

I worked in city planning and community development for 35 years. It was a non-digital paper world at that time with real file cabinets, copy machines and lots of site visits and face-to-face time with the public. I liked that work environment and most of my co-workers. I also liked the separation of work and home. When I went home at 5 PM, it was personal family time. When we took a vacation, it was 100% vacation with no interruptions, work deadlines or Zoom meetings. Times are changing but not everyone can have the kind of job that allows them to meet job deadlines while touring the country with the family.

Roger
10 days ago

Did this exact thing starting in 2004. It was challenging at times back then but as time moved forward it became much easier. Would go to the nearest Airport when I needed to visit a customer in person and fly to them. My wife would stay behind and in a few days I’d fly back. Did most of the work with a computer and some type of internet connection. By the time I retired in 2019 the connectivity was mostly seamless and at a speed I could do Zoom meetings which even cut the travel to customers down drastically. It’s the New Business World and the old conventional office environment is probably mostly gone for good. Wouldn’t want to have a bunch of money invested in conventional Business Park buildings!!

Steve
11 days ago

I think we talk too much about working remotely. You can’t build cars, refine gas, drive trucks, stock groceries, etc. remotely. Yes, there are jobs like that but the majority are not. We will see.

L. Hollister
11 days ago

Its been happening for years. Northern “campgrounds”, “resorts” etc usually have seasons ending in October or sooner. But that doesn’t mean reservations stop coming in for the open season. With online reservations available from the cg website, or reservations agencies like Camp Spot, reservations can be made year round. But many/most campers prefer to phone the campground. So while the campground may be closed and the management wintering in Florida, Arizona or anywhere warmer, there is someone usually available to answer the dozens of questions, enter the reservation, take a deposit, etc. The person doing all this is usually remote, often travelling.

David Kutz
11 days ago

I too live in the Seattle area (Kitsap) and we have traveled for years while working in our RV (or boat) off and on. We travel around the northwest in the summer and spend about five months a year in California and Arizona RV Parks. I have had been able to keep up with my small business while traveling fairly well. I use a Verizon modem and usually never have to depend on Park Internet unless there is lousy cell service in a particular area like last week in Cannon Beach. Only then do I convert and try out the park Internet.
The main drawback from traveling and working while everybody else around you is having fun and happy hour, is the distractions. You can’t say no to the work and yes to the wife’s plans all the time when everybody says you should be on vacation. Sometimes plans need to be changed for your family because of a certain job that might come due and can’t be postponed. It can be disappointing as well as rewarding.

lauren oliver
11 days ago

There will be many who will drop out of the camping scene when they can’t find a technician to fix their hot water heater.

Suru
11 days ago

I think the dispersed camping spots are getting full of full-timers too. Last week we drove to a favorite BLM spot in Southern Utah that we have never had a problem finding a camp spot. Not this time. It was full to the gills. We ended up at a Forest Service campground. I happened to run into a couple who were camping out in the dispersed area. They had already been there for 2 months. I asked about the 14 day rule and they said no one ever checks. I got to looking around and I would say 90% of the people out there looked like they had taken up permanent residence. The couple I talked to bragged about how they were staying for free and wouldn’t move until made to. I didn’t know how to feel about it. I thought the public lands were meant for people to recreate on temporarily, not live on permanently. Most people were keeping a clean campsite, but there were a few that the junk was piling up. Unfortunately, those are the ones that get the camping areas closed down.

Dr. Forbin
11 days ago
Reply to  Suru

Hope you got your public lands comments in, the winds of change are blowing full force, thanks to those few bad apples. Soon, designated camping only in some areas. No more stay where you like as long as you like. In some areas of Utah.

Last edited 11 days ago by Dr. Forbin
Laura Martin
11 days ago

I am not sure that it is going to become an overwhelming issue. Millennials like to travel in packs. There might be individuals with small families or just plain individuals who set up some place, but they will have to contend with the limits of staying in a campsite like the rest of us. Also, they have to be within technical range of Wi-Fi or some other form of computer coverage. We have friends who try this and it is not as easy as it seems. It takes very sophisticated electronics to make it work. That ain’t going to happen in many parks!

KellyR
11 days ago

I see 3 work from home scenarios. 1. Work from: stix n bricks. I have two family members that have done this for decades & live normal community family life. 2. Parked in the RV for 6 months at a time, as my in-laws did for decades – 6 mos up north, 6 mos Florida. The first 2 scenarios take up no more RV spaces than have been in the past decades. 3. Nomads working from the RV. I believe it must be the Nomads that Chuck thinks will eat up parking space. Are there really more Nomads taking up space than this COVID boom of wanderlust RVers, that is surely soon to end? COVID RVers will surely drop off for things often discussed in RVT – rising cost of RVing, poor RV build, and just finding out that, for them, it is not as romantic as they had thought. Isn’t some of it just “not being able to get the spot I WANTED”, rather than not enough spots? On the other hand, for me, maybe the Western half of the USA is more crowed than my Eastern half???

Steve
11 days ago
Reply to  KellyR

My DW and I agree with your comments, especially the “I can’t get the site I want” rather than no sites available. Also, the work remote or work on the road sounds romantic, but I think employers are going to find remote workers are not ‘overall’ effective as onsite workers. And further, I think remote living will wear thin with many families. We will see.

Jeff Craig
11 days ago

It’s been going on for years – Corporate America is finally catching up.

Billinois
11 days ago

Two things I’ve not seen mentioned that will affect WFH from RVs.
1) Kids. If you’re a family, how are you going to handle schooling, play time, sports, social connections? The whole “home schooling” concept sounds reasonable except it really isn’t. Most parents don’t know how to teach to accepted standards, and who is going to teach or supervise when Mom and Dad are both working in the RV.
2) Winter. Everyone in the northern states will want to migrate to the warmer southern states for the winter. Problem is, Florida, Arizona, Texas campgrounds were pretty much booked a year out BEFORE Covid hit. Pretty slim chance of finding a spot on the fly to hole up for the winter. And if you do, it better be for the whole winter and not just a month at a time. Some RV parks have cancelled month-long reservations at the last minute because they had someone willing to book it for 5-6 months.
I see WFH from an RV as a viable alternative for singles or childless couples, not so much for families.

Dave
11 days ago

I worked from home several days a week before I retired and my daughter has worked remotely, from a different state, for over 10 years. You must have robust internet service to be successful. Most RV parks do NOT have service robust enough to support this. And if the park does have decent service, as soon as people discover this, they start streaming and the service becomes unreliable. It’s best to have your own private, dedicated Internet service so you don’t have to compete with other users for service, be it a cell data plan or something like StarLink. I have been to parks where they have internet on the power pedestal, but you have to directly coordinate with the local ISP (Internet Service Provider) for activation, etc. Again, that option provides dedicated service. Whether it’s worth it or not is an individual preference. While snowbirding last winter, I met several folks who were also snowbirding, but still working, remotely, enjoying sunny Florida.

Dr. Forbin
12 days ago

People try to mobile work in my destination tourist town in Utah but find that the RV park rents are too costly so they move to Public lands only to find the 14 day stay limit before having to move 30 miles away puts them out of internet reach and include the price of the various fuels needed (diesel, gasoline, propane) throw in the lack of health care and the rough dirt roads, black water dump, or grey water, or culinary water fill too problematic, oh need that RV repaired to towed. I’ll stick to my stick house and vegetable garden and keep riding my e-bike to work.

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