Are Technologists Fleeing Silicon Valley Because of COVID-19?

Are technologists fleeing Silicon Valley? Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, that’s emerged as a key question, especially since a number of local tech giants (including Facebook and Twitter) have adopted generous remote-work policies. If there’s a mass exodus underway, it could fundamentally change how one of the nation’s largest tech hubs works for years to come. 

Blind, which anonymously polls technologists, recently surveyed its user base in Silicon Valley about their relocation plans. At least for now, a minority of employees (15 percent overall) have fled for other states and cities. Take a look at the company-by-company breakdown:

Not every Silicon Valley company is represented on this list, of course. The aforementioned Twitter, for example, announced in May that nearly all of its employees would work from home on a permanent basis; that surely impacted individual technologists’ decisions over whether to move out of San Francisco, where Twitter is headquartered. But Twitter isn’t on this list. 

Facebook also plans on letting the bulk of its employees work remotely from now on, although it will reduce the salaries of those who decide to abandon Silicon Valley for places with a lower cost of living. So far, just 16 percent of the Blind survey respondents who work at Facebook say they’ve left the area, but that might change in coming quarters as more figure out their longer-term plans.  

For other companies, the calculus is a little more complicated. Google announced at the end of July that its employees’ work-from-home mandate would extend to July 2021 at the earliest. That was a huge change from just a month before, when the search-engine giant seemed determined to have most of its employees back at their regular desks by the end of 2020. If you’re an engineer at the firm, the seeming determination to have employees return at some point no doubt impacts your decision whether to leave Silicon Valley altogether.

The choice whether to leave the Bay Area is a fraught one. Even if you’re determined to move, you have to sell your house or settle your apartment lease, find new housing in another city, and engage in the stressful process of moving in the middle of a viral pandemic. However, the prospect of a lower cost of living might entice technologists to undertake such an epic quest. Even before COVID-19, reports indicated that a migration of sorts from the Bay Area was already underway, with many technologists deciding to try their luck in other up-and-coming tech hubs such as Salt Lake City, Raleigh, and Atlanta.

Although a small percentage of technologists have moved so far, another Blind question suggests that lots of Bay Area technologists are actively thinking about it:

While the Bay Area offers quite a number of advantages to technologists, including a dense concentration of tech companies, universities, and talent, it also has some notable challenges, including high housing prices and infamous traffic. It’s too soon to tell whether the pandemic will have a lasting impact on the area, but it’s clear that some technologists are thinking of fleeing. 

Visit our COVID-19 Resource Center, which aims to provide the tech community with the best, most up-to-date information on the novel coronavirus. 

3 Responses to “Are Technologists Fleeing Silicon Valley Because of COVID-19?”

  1. I’m always amazed when folks talk about Silicon Valley and then SHOW pictures of San Francisco. You’re on the wrong side of a mountain…. show me a pick of San Jose, Santa Clara or something around there… THAT’s the valley. 😉

  2. MICHAEL R HOWARD

    No amount of money or position would ever entice me to work and live in the cesspool (literally) of San Francisco. Come to think of it, just replace San Francisco with the entire state of California… that place is insane.