Live the Remote Life in This Tennessee City

Looking for a stunning new place to work from home? Consider moving to Oak Ridge.

By
Cary Estes
On Friday, July 23, 2021 - 10:56
Oak Ridge, TN

It wasn’t just school-aged children doing homework during the pandemic. Millions of adults also found themselves suddenly combining home with work on a daily basis.

The shift to remote working further highlighted the importance of living in a community that offers a low cost of living and a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities.

From an affordability standpoint, the cost of living in Oak Ridge, TN is 17% below the national average. The median home price is approximately $282,000 (compared to $347,000 nationally), and the median monthly rent is approximately $883 (compared to $1,124 nationally).

And as for the region’s outdoor activities, those cooped up in the house all day can easily enjoy nature when the workday is over. Oak Ridge is home to more than 30 parks and recreation facilities, and every residential area is within a half-mile of at least one park.

Melton Hill Lake and the Melton Hill Greenway are both close by, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is barely an hour’s drive away.

If you are still on the fence about working remotely in Oak Ridge, here are stories from two residents who are doing just that.

Oak Ridge, TN
Nathan Lambrecht

Staying Connected in Oak Ridge, TN

Amy Schwinge, the senior communications and marketing specialist at Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), no longer had to worry about a daily commute when she began working from home.

But she still spent plenty of time in the car, as she often used her lunch hour to ride with her daughter, Jade, as she practiced for her driving test.

“Since you don’t have all the traffic and the hustle-and-bustle here like you do in some bigger cities, it was easy to get out on the neighborhood roads and let her practice in the community,” Schwinge says. “We would go on a drive during lunch two or three times each week, then when she turned 16, she passed the test and got her license.”

Schwinge says ORAU was “flexible and understanding” with its remote work policies and made sure its employees stayed informed through weekly webinars. “We would talk about everything COVID related and work related,” Schwinge says. “It was a wonderful way for everybody to still feel connected, even though we were working remotely.”

And when it came time to take a break from work, Schwinge says she simply walked across the street to Haw Ridge Park, which connects to the Melton Hill Greenway in Oak Ridge.

“The trail goes by the water, and it’s absolutely beautiful,” Schwinge says. “That was a great way to get out and break up the day. It was very relaxing, and I would come back home refreshed and ready to get back to work.”

Oak Ridge, TN
Nathan Lambrecht

Connecting to Communities in Tennessee

One concern many businesses had about a remote workforce was that their employees would not be as productive because of all the distractions that can take place in a home.

Steve Geltz, a mechanical engineer at UCOR, however, discovered that, for him, the opposite was true. “I’m in a location at the office where a lot of people can easily have contact with me,” Geltz says. “Working from home, I had no interruptions and was more productive. It was very efficient.”

UCOR, which is the cleanup contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Reservation sites, kept its remote employees informed through regular videos as well as Skype and Zoom meetings.

In addition, Geltz says he was able to easily connect his home computer to the computer at the office and access work information as needed. “There were a few issues, but nothing we couldn’t work around,” Geltz says. “Even though we were working in different places, we were always in communication.”

Geltz moved to Oak Ridge in 2009 and says he immediately enjoyed the leisurely pace. It is a quality he and his wife have taken full advantage of during the pandemic.

“Oak Ridge is a relatively small community in a little more localized area than a lot of places, so it’s easy to get around,” Geltz says. “There are so many attractions and things that are close by. My wife and I get out and just go walking all the time. We weren’t tied to the house so much as we were tied to the community.”

Want to learn more about living in Oak Ridge? Check out the latest edition of Livability Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cary Estes is a freelance writer based in Birmingham, Ala.