Survey: Up to 23 million US workers plan to move due to work from home flexibility

Migration in the near term could increase fourfold compared to normal rates, according to Upwork. Many individuals are seeking cheaper housing hours from their current homes.

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Image: iStock/vasyldolmatov

Due to COVID-19, millions of people now login for the virtual workday rather than commute to a physical brick-and-mortar building. Without many of the traditional logistical constraints of both time and space, organizations are able to hire employees from around the globe. Similarly, telecommuting offers professionals flexibility and increased career opportunities with a wider pool of prospective employers. As a result of this new normal of work, millions of US workers could soon relocate en masse, according to a new Upwork survey.

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"Remote work presents a potential solution for those seeking job opportunities that don't want to pay the high housing costs of a major city," said Adam Ozimek, chief economist at Upwork, in a press release. "As our survey shows, many people see remote work as an opportunity to relocate to where they want and where they can afford to live. This is an early indicator of the much larger impacts that remote work could have in increasing economic efficiency and spreading opportunity."

Telecommuter migration trends

On Thursday, Upwork released a report titled "Remote Workers on the Move" based on a survey involving more than 20,000 Americans. Overall, up to 23 million US households plan to relocate due to a surge in remote work. As a result of these relocations en masse, the release notes that "near-term migration" rates in the US could be up to "four times what they normally are" and about one-in-five of those planning to relocate are based in major US cities.

Financial incentives are central to the relocation plans for many. In fact, about half (52.2%) of households plan to move into a home "that is significantly more affordable than their current home." In general, historically higher-priced housing markets may be most acutely affected by these migration trends. Using Apartments.com rental data comparing the most expensive markets to the least expensive markets, the top 10% "most expensive markets" experienced a comparatively larger reduction in rental prices; with a 13% decrease overall, per Upwork.

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More than half (54.7%) of respondents are moving to an area that is more than two hours from their current space. About four-in-10 are moving to an area that is a minimum of four hours away. As the report points out, this is "beyond daily or even weekly commuting distances," and "supports the notion of a growing separation of where people work and where they live."

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