News & Opinion | November 3, 2020 1:07 pm

Over 20 Million Americans Plan to Move Somewhere Else in the WFH Era

You're not the only one thinking about moving out to the country or coast

men moving
As WFH measures continue for some of the workforce, Americans are moving.
Handiwork NYC/Unsplash

This new WFH normal isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Tech giants like Facebook, Twitter and Google are closed until next summer (and even offering flexible remote work options once employees return), many companies are selling off headquarters, and clearly, the country has not come close to wrestling control of the pandemic. Eighteen states have broken daily case records over the last week.

It all provides crucial context for the results of a recent survey by Upwork, which discovered that 14 to 23 million Americans currently plan to relocate to a different city. The freelancing platform asked 20,000 Americans the same question: “As a result of more ability to work from home post COVID, for yourself or someone in your household, are you planning to move out of the area?” Between 6.9 percent and 11.5 percent of those surveyed answered that they do plan to move as a response to months of remote work.

Why? Opportunity. Upwork’s Chief Economist Adam Ozimek said 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.”

The majority of this migration will be an urban exodus. A fifth of people reporting plans to move currently live in a city. And over half of those surveyed are looking for A) more affordable housing, in B) areas two hours away or more from their current locations. Many employees live in or near a major urban area out of convenience alone, and could do without the exorbitant cost of living, rampant pollution (emissions, light, noise), cramped square footage, and strange sense of isolation, which has only amplified as social activity has shuttered to a halt this year.

This is an unexpected window for these people, assuming their managers approve, to permanently work somewhere else — or at least set up a post-pandemic situation where braving a longer commute once or twice a week is acceptable. There’s a chance many of these people move back, or move elsewhere (as wanderlust/restlessness could also be fueling this move), but for now the housing market in coastal and rural areas is hot, while once-bankable rental markets in cities are struggling to sell.