by Holly Riddle
Last year, Happy Valley welcomed a group of remote workers from around the country to experience what makes the region — and, in particular, Bellefonte — so special. As part of The Wilds are Working initiative, participants came from as far away as California to live, work and play over a month’s time.
While The Wilds are Working initiative, which is overseen by the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship and was initially funded by Ben Franklin Technology Partners, is an innovative effort to bring more business attention to what Happy Valley can offer remote workers, remote working from the region isn’t a new idea. As more attention was brought to the Wilds are Working program, we learned of professionals who are doing just that and have been for years — and who are loving it all the while.
Take Emma Ostler, for example. She’s a travel nurse recruiter for AMN Healthcare. When she and her husband were looking to move from their home in Las Vegas, they thought Bellefonte would be an ideal fit.
“One of my sisters has lived here for almost 10 years and has absolutely loved it,” said Ostler. “Anytime that I’ve come to visit, I fell more and more in love with it. The character of the downtown and the big sense of community were a really big draw … My husband and I were looking into putting down roots and starting a family, and everything out west is so expensive … Pennsylvania is very different, but it checks all of our boxes.”
Ostler had already been working remotely in Las Vegas before the move, when remote options became popular within her company due to the pandemic, giving her flexibility in choosing where she lives and raises her family.
I would absolutely recommend moving out here, for people who have that flexibility.
“I would absolutely recommend moving out here, for people who have that flexibility,” she added.
Ostler’s husband now works from home as well and, together, the two enjoy less-rigid schedules than they might experience when working a 9-to-5 in a physical office, allowing them to become more involved with the community, whether it’s heading to a trivia night at Big Spring Spirits or walking to Talleyrand Park.
Jeana Spearly is an account executive for The Knot Worldwide. While she didn’t relocate to the area as a remote worker like Ostler — she is State College-born and raised — she says that working remotely from Happy Valley is the perfect setup for her.
“It has been such a positive experience. It’s been so beneficial to my work-life balance and overall I’m just so much happier,” she said. “I like that I get to stay home with my dog. I’m able to eat healthier and fit in workouts and daily walks. I’m able to balance home chores throughout the week, so I don’t have them all pile up on the weekend. I feel more relaxed and less stressed so I am able to perform my job better. Truthfully, the only thing that I miss about going into an office is that I [was] closer to town so I could grab Starbucks or take-out lunch.”
The satisfaction and higher standard of living that remote workers like Ostler and Spearly report shouldn’t be surprising, given the myriad studies that show flexible working conditions, including flexibility surrounding where and when employees do their job, increase satisfaction. A 2020 survey from Cisco found that nearly 80% of survey respondents reported that remote and hybrid work improved their overall well-being, as well as their work-life balance and familial relationships. More than 80% said that the ability to work from anywhere has made them happier.
Working remotely has proven to be so beneficial on so many levels, both personally and career-wise.
Spearly said she would never work in an office again, now that she’s experienced remote work. “Working remotely has proven to be so beneficial on so many levels, both personally and career-wise. I am a firm believer that you should work to live and not live to work,” she noted.
It’s not just employees that reap the benefits of remote working. For employers looking at their bottom lines, studies have found that workers are about 10% more productive when working at home, versus in the office.
Overarching benefits of remote work aside, it’s easy to see that where you are working matters. You’re likely to find more success and work-life balance, and feel less of the isolation that some remote workers report, when you’re living in a destination filled with business opportunities and resources, with lots to do to get you out of the house and away from your desk, and a strong sense of community network — a destination that remote workers are finding in Happy Valley.