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Cities Are Killing The Future Of Work (And The American Dream)

Source | FastCompany : BY STEPHANE KASRIEL

Today Amazon announced that it’s whittled down more than 230 applicants to a shortlist of 20 places where it will build a second headquarters, dubbed “HQ2.” With up to 50,000 new high-skilled jobs and $5 billion of investment at stake, the contest has been fierce, with cities, counties, and states all competing to offer a $530-billion company what’s likely to be an extraordinarily lavish package of tax incentives.

It comes as no surprise that the 20 finalists are all big, educated, and prosperous urban hubs, or else nearby suburbs within close commuting distances to large cities. Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, Atlanta, and Maryland’s Montgomery County (just over the Potomac from Washington, D.C.) are all in the running.

This should have us worried. The same economic development playbook that’s driving competition for HQ2 seems less and less sustainable. Over the last decade, our obsession with luring large corporate offices toward increasingly dense central business districts has strained American life as we know it–particularly for the younger half of the workforce. For too many cities, being an engine of fast-paced, high-skilled job growth has also meant higher rents, longer commutes, less savings, and fewer homeowners.

If we’re going to build a future of work that’s secure, innovative, and equitable, we’re going to need to buck one of the fastest-growing global trends: the urbanization of work.

 

CLUSTERING OURSELVES INTO A CORNER

This isn’t an impossible problem to solve. We need to start generating work where people live, and there’s never been a better time for it. Technological advances–think widespread videoconferencing apps, a growing freelance labor pool, and the proliferation of coworking spaces and collaboration software–combined with rise of the knowledge economy offer alternatives to a 1950s-style work-here-live-there paradigm.

Not long after the internet went mainstream, many predicted remote and virtual workplaces would soon be the norm. And as our digital lives expanded in the early 2000s, it made sense to believe that a company’s physical office was nearing obsolescence, at least for the post-industrial economy’s growing knowledge workers.

Read On….

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