The days of building a life in close proximity to where you work may be over.
New research from freelancing platform Upwork shows that between 14 million and 23 million households plan to move, thanks to the rise in acceptance of remote working as the new normal. As a result, many major cities and expensive housing markets may see residents flee for greener pastures.
Workers welcome new options
Even before the pandemic, more and more companies were increasing their remote working opportunities. However, the pandemic created an even greater demand, as companies implemented work-from-home policies to help lower possible exposure to COVID-19.
Upwork conducted a series of surveys earlier this month, asking respondents whether they planned to move (or had already done so) due to the increased ability to work from home. Three Upwork survey samples showed between 6.9% and 11.5% of respondents who were moving or planning to move, given new remote-work options for themselves or members of their household. Those percentages translate into 14 million to 23 million people.
The opportunity to work from home is attractive to many — a 2019 survey found that some workers are even willing to quit their jobs in order to find the flexible work options they desire. But compared to 2018 and 2019 Census data, workers this year are two to three times more likely to consider moving.
Big cities could take a population hit
The Upwork survey found that more than 1 in 5 respondents living in a major city (20.6%) were planning to move. That was followed by:
12.2% of those living in the suburbs surrounding a major city
8.6% of those living a mid-sized city or surrounding suburbs
6.7% of those living in a small city, town or other suburbs
5.7% of those living in rural areas
Housing costs are a big concern among those planning to relocate. More than half of those surveyed (52.5%) were planning to move to a property that is at least 10% less expensive than their current home.
On top of that, more than 1 in 5 said they were planning to move somewhere at least 50% less expensive than their current residence. In contrast, only 25% were planning to move to a more expensive home.
The data also suggested that a majority of workers planning to move were relocating “beyond daily or even weekly commuting distances.” Specifically, 13.2% said they planned to move within two to four hours of their current home, while 41.5% planned to move more than four hours away.
Another motivating factor for many of those making a move is the density of where they live versus where they plan to go. According to Upwork’s research, those planning to relocate were more than twice as likely to head somewhere less dense than where they live, rather than somewhere more dense.
While there are many reasons this may be the case, one possible factor could be that some studies link denser populations to a greater spread of COVID-19.
Methodology: Upwork surveyed more than 20,000 people to find out about their moving intentions and preferences. The survey was conducted Oct. 1-15, 2020.