The COVID-19 pandemic forever changed the way Americans live and work. With the very worst of the pandemic seemingly in the rearview, many people are reflecting on the changes they made over the last two years – for better or worse.
While more people are working remotely than ever, most aren’t living the digital nomad lifestyle frequently found on social media. While there are undoubtedly some intrepid workers who’ve found success in far-flung corners of the globe, many of the best places to work in America aren’t what you might expect.
One in 20 Americans Now Work Remotely
IT Service Management company SysAid recently released research conducted on that very subject. Surprisingly, the researchers discovered that only 5.35 percent of jobs in US cities were remote.
However, 23.84% more people switched to working from home than five years before the pandemic. This represents 5x more than the previous period when the yearly pace at which people changed to remote work was 4.67%.
A spokesperson for SysAid commented on the findings: “It is very surprising that, on average, only one in 20 American city dwellers works remotely. We expected this number to be much higher, considering the importance of social distancing at the beginning of the pandemic.”
The Regions With the Most Remote Workers
Diving deeper into SysAid’s research reveals more surprising details about the remote workforce. Among the top 30 metropolitan and micropolitan places to work remotely in the United States, Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, ranks number one. It’s estimated that 17.7 percent of all residents work remotely.
The community, located within the town of Tisbury on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, is a popular tourist destination in the summer months. Initially a fishing village and bustling seaport, Vineyard Haven follows a trend many of the top cities for remote work have in common: it’s located up north.
Faribault-Northfield, MN, Brookings, OR, and Bennington, VT help round out the list of places with the most remote workers. While there are non-northern cities with a significant remote workforce, very few are located in the country’s southern half. Raleigh, NC, and Fort Leonard Wood, MO, are towards the lower end of the list, with about 12 percent of their workforce working remotely.
Quantifying the “Best” Places to Work Remotely
Of course, defining the best places to work remotely can be a matter of opinion. While the locations mentioned above certainly offer a community for remote workers hoping to meet fellow like-minded individuals, that’s about all they have in common with one another.
The best spot for a single, self-employed digital nomad may be far different than the best place for a remote worker climbing the corporate ladder and supporting a family. Like most factors that drive our decision to put down roots somewhere, the variables range dramatically from one person to the next.
The cost of living continues to rise in most places around the country. Because remote workers have the option of living wherever best suits their needs, lower cost of living spots may be on the rise.
Commanding a top salary while living in a relatively low cost of living area can prove to be a worthwhile endeavor. The local housing market may indeed play a significant role in a remote worker’s decision to stay put or move elsewhere.
Changing Workforce, Changing Demands
The American workforce grows more diverse each year. From full-time and part-time employees to contingent, freelance, gig, and crowdsourced workers, our nation is entering a season of change. A 2022 Gallup poll found that workers want – above all else – a significant pay and benefits increase.
A greater work/life balance also ranked high on the list of things American workers want most. Job stability is another factor. After a rocky few years, we all crave a little more money, free time, and stability.
While it’s easy to draw overarching conclusions about remote workers, their habits, and their demands, the reality is more nuanced. No matter where remote workers might be located, their lifestyles are as varied as the jobs they perform.
In many cases, the best places to work remotely in America aren’t the most scenic or lowest in cost of living. They’re the places where opportunities are bountiful, and flexibility is prized. That’s something we could all learn to embrace.
Chelsea DeAngio is a freelance writer based in Greensboro, NC. Inspired by a rootless childhood as a Navy brat, she enjoys traveling every chance she gets. Pop culture often drives her trips. Whether channeling her inner Lady Mary at Highclere Castle in the UK or noshing on nachos at Showgirls filming locations in Vegas, Chelsea is always in search of a little silver screen glitz.