Remote Design in 5 Years

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The Hiring Zone
Issue #11236 - March 2019 | Page #74
By Thomas McAnally

As I gaze into my crystal ball, conjuring up a future based on my 27 years of recruiting and industry experience, I can see big changes ahead for our industry and Remote Designers. Come with me and let’s see what my crystal ball shows….

The Year is 2021:

As the mist in my crystal ball starts to clear, I can see that remote design is alive, but not as well as in 2020. The housing industry wildfire that created remote design peaked in 2020. It fueled an off-shore industry that provided on-demand remote design services with designers well trained in American Truss Design practices, but at a much lower cost than US-based Remote Designers. Enabled by Software Company training, advanced architectural and engineering degrees, and good old entrepreneurial spirit, they are finally as good as designers in the US. Remote positions are still available in the US, but compensation has declined 20% or more from 2020 highs due to off-shore competition.

The Year is 2022:

As the fog clears further, I can see the housing industry cycle continues to cool, faster in certain markets than others. The decline is regional, like in the past, with some areas cutting designers and others still adding. Only now, the employer is in the driver’s seat. It was that way years before the Great Recession, where you could always have a job if you would relocate to a hotter market.  Now, in cooling markets, Remote Designers are laid off first and in-house designer jobs seem more secure. Most employers never truly embraced remote design as equal. It wasn’t technology that kept this from happening; it was the nature of our industry where everyone, from your co-workers and supervisor to customers in the field, wants personal interaction. Yes, you say, remote technology makes working remote equal to working in the office. Well, sales can also be remote, but, like any form of customer service, it is the personal touch that makes a difference. In 2022, the demand for designers nationwide is much lower than its peak in 2020. US-based Remote Designers in cooling markets are now faced with having to relocate and go back to an in-office job or change careers. It is not as bad nationwide as the Great Recession, but to someone faced with losing his or her remote or in-office design job and having to relocate to keep a career, it is a big decision to have thrust upon them.

Fast Forward to 2024:

The housing market has stabilized somewhat. Most designers live within an hour of their office. They have a desk at the office and one at home. Technology makes the technical side of remote and in-office desks equal. Being within an hour of the office solves the customer service side. Remote becomes optional for most all designers to promote a work-life balance. Having the ability to log in at home and get a couple more hours, 4 days a week, lets many people transition to a 4-day work week.

In the end, no matter where we are by 2025, technology has enabled remote, but its limitations have kept it from changing the preference for in-office designers. Technology isn’t able to replace the personal touch of office interaction, on-site customer service, and the bond human beings make with a smile, a touch, and random acts of kindness. Where will you be in 2025?

This fictional outlook is based on my personal opinion and experience. I have seen several housing cycles and worked with employers who went from “never remote” to accepting the inevitable. Like before the Great Recession, everything was great…and then it wasn’t. My crystal ball is intended to open discussion, provoke thought, and maybe suggest some planning for what could be our future in the Building Components Industry.

You're reading an article from the March 2019 issue.

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