With many companies extending their work-from-home policies into next summer, 81 percent of tech workers living within 30 miles of the country’s biggest innovation hubs are considering or have already made plans to move to a more affordable city, according to a study by .Tech Domains. Meanwhile, another study by Blind, which anonymously surveys technologists, suggests roughly a third of technologists have moved from six big tech hubs (including Silicon Valley and New York City).
But could the decision to leave a major tech hub turn out to be less-than-wise in hindsight? Some experts say that the trend toward remote work will ultimately swing back in the other direction, and companies plan to shift only some employees to permanent remote work. Large tech companies such as Amazon and Facebook continue to build out very expensive real estate in big cities, suggesting that the traditional office (and the need to commute to it) isn’t going away anytime soon.
No matter what the tech industry will look like in coming years, in other words, the biggest cities will continue to offer lots of opportunities to technologists with the right combinations of skills and experience. To help you make the right choice, here are some things to consider before moving away from a major tech hub.
Long-Term Career Impact
How will moving impact your ability to establish a track record and grow your career over the next five to 10 years?
Given your specialty and goals, a key thing to consider is your ability to secure more high-paying remote work down the road, noted Stuart McLeod, CEO and co-founder of Karbon.
Even though McLeod remains bullish on his decision to move his company from Silicon Valley to the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, he admits that leaving a tech hub may hinder the careers of junior professionals who need visibility with management, mentorship and the opportunity to change jobs frequently to land cutting-edge projects and promotions.
Remember, the willingness to pay sky-high salaries is driven by a market imbalance in supply and demand, so limiting yourself to remote opportunities may force you to compete against a global pool of lower-paid workers. That might diminish your negotiating power. What’s more, just five metro areas—Boston, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and San Diego—accounted for more than 90 percent of the nation’s innovation-sector growth between 2005 and 2017.
“There’s no substitute for in-person relationships,” added Colin Yasukochi, executive director of CBRE’s Tech Insights Center. “So much is lost when you work remotely.”
It seems that most technologists agree. According to a new study by Indeed, 76 percent believe it’s important to remain close to a tech hub, even when working remotely, and 46 percent speculate that employers will continue to prefer workers from nearby markets.
Long-Term Financial Impact
Sure, going remote may reduce your housing expenses (and give you enough space for a comfy home office), but will the numbers continue to work in your favor? Gauge the immediate impact of a move by using a cost-of-living calculator that looks at differences in housing, food, utilities, lifestyle, clothing, transportation, healthcare costs, taxes and childcare prices.
For instance, you may need a car to go shopping or out to dinner in a city that is spread out. Attending family events (or even commuting to an office occasionally) may require a costly, additional hop through a regional airport.
To calculate the long-term financial impact, you need to consider your employer’s compensation philosophy and commitment to a remote or hybrid work model, McLeod advised. Some tech companies offer the same pay to all employees regardless of location, while others have vowed to cut the pay of remote employees who relocate to an area with a lower cost of living. Your employer’s position on pay could mean the difference between coming out ahead, breaking even or being underwater.
In addition, many companies plan to end work-from-home stipends once offices reopen, Yasukochi noted. You may be forced to foot the bill for your home office yourself and you may not be able to deduct the expenses if you’re an employee.
Weigh the pros and cons of relocating not only for yourself, but your family, as well. Will your significant other be able to find quality, interesting work? Will your kids be able to adjust to a new school and make new friends? In a study of 50,000 children, researchers found that children who move frequently (more than five times), are three times more likely to experience mental health problems.
“I would advise tech pros to put their families first,” McLeod said. “Don’t uproot your family just for a job.” And if you decide that a move is the right thing to do, make sure the new area offers your children (or future children) access to quality schools, activities and health care, he added.
Living with Uncertainty
What is remote work going to look like in the future? How will tech enterprises function once the pandemic recedes? Frankly, those questions haven’t been answered yet, Yasukochi said.
“There is still a lot of uncertainty ahead,” he added. And frankly, some people are better at navigating situations that present higher risk and uncertainty than others. No matter what you decide to do, just make sure you approach the decision to leave a major tech hub with your eyes wide open.