Upwork has released its “Remote Workers on the Move” report, highlighting the impact the pandemic is having on the American workforce.
As the pandemic swept the globe, companies the world over sent their employees home to work remotely. Just as the initial restrictions started to ease, the pandemic picked up its pace, forcing companies to extend their work-from-home policies. In some cases, companies such as Dropbox, Reddit, Twitter and Microsoft have made remote work a permanent part of their culture.
The shift to remote work is having a profound impact on the American workforce, according to Upwork. In particular, remote work could be leading to a sizable migration.
Anywhere from 14 to 23 million Americans are planning to move as a result of remote work. Combined with those who are moving regardless of remote work, near-term migration rates may be three to four times what they normally are.
Large cities are the biggest losers in this scenario, with 20.6% of those planning to move leaving a big city. Those planning to move are not just moving further into the suburbs. Some 54.7% of those migrating are planning on moving at least two hours away, farther than typical commuting distance.
Upwork calls the transition to remote work “the biggest, fastest transformation of the labor market since the World World II mobilization.” The report makes it clear that companies must adapt to what has become a new normal, providing employees with remote work options. In particular, Upwork makes the case that companies are better off allowing full remote work rather than partial options.
In addition to the impacts to cities, the results of the survey also present an important lesson for businesses on the future of remote work. In order to capture and provide professionals with the full benefits of remote work, businesses must allow full-time remote work. While a partial-remote model, a policy that requires a blend of both remote work and in office work, may have some appeal as a “best of both” choice, it also means forgoing many benefits. A professional cannot move hours and even states away if they still have to go into the office two days a week. Our survey shows that for 41% of people moving out of the area because of remote work, they are going 4 or hours farther away. This is not a weekly commute distance, and is not something workers can do easily with a partial-remote model.
Likewise, with a partial-remote model businesses forgo one of the biggest benefits of a remote workforce; the ability to hire from a larger talent pool. Businesses cannot hire workers wherever they are if weekly office visits are still required.