Remote Work Report

From Upwork.


To understand the extent to which people are moving due to remote work, Upwork conducted a remote work report, based on survey of over 23,000 people in the U.S.

Here is a short summary of the The New Geography of Remote Work report with main insights for businesses and freelancers.

  • 2.4% of adults say that they have already moved because of remote work, compared to 1.8% in October 2020. In total, this implies that 4.9 million people have relocated as a result of remote work since 2020.

  • 9.3% of people plan to move because of remote work, compared to 6.1% in 2020. This implies 18.9 million people intend to move because of remote work, representing a substantial number of people whose location choice was affected by the ability to live where they want.

How Far Are the Moves

When looking back at 2019 data, the median worker lived within a half hour of their workplace, and 80% of people lived within 1.5 hours. Now people are moving outside commutable distances: 28% of people said they are moving more than 4 hours away. Another 13% said they are moving between two and four hours away.

How Far Are the Moves

The survey data suggests both long-distance moves and moves from city centers to nearby suburbs. Economists Arjun Ramani and Nicholas Bloom call this the later a “donut effect” because it will push down demand in central business districts and push up demand in the nearby suburbs. This model would prevent people from moving farther away because they will still have some ties to the office.

Cities most likely to see people move away meet two criteria:

  1. A strong labor market effects the high cost of living, and
  2. A significant share of jobs that can be done remotely.

Even when effects are not clear in housing prices, they may be in apartment rents. Data from ApartmentList shows that metro areas with higher pre-pandemic rents have experienced weaker rental price growth since the beginning of the pandemic.

What does this geography of remote work report mean for the future for businesses and professionals?

  • Remote work is and will continue to have implications for local labor markets. Professionals have a unique chance to take advantage of the opportunity to find a place they want to and can afford to live, regardless of where their employer’s office may be.

  • Businesses should be open to adopting policies and onboarding professionals, regardless of location, in order to have broad access to the labor market. This is especially important, given that some have already taken the leap and moved, but as the remote work labor market becomes more certain these effects will likely grow.

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