Are Technologists Still Moving Out of Major Tech Hubs Like Silicon Valley?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in early 2020, technologists everywhere have scrambled to adapt to the realities of remote work. In major tech hubs such as Silicon Valley and New York City, some have debated whether it’s worth continuing to live in a high-cost area if they don’t have to actually go to an office. But are they actually fleeing to smaller, cheaper towns?

Blind, which issues regular (and anonymous) surveys about a number of tech-industry issues, recently asked technologists if they’d relocated out of a major city since work-from-home began in earnest. Based on that data, it’s clear that a significant percentage of employees at some of tech’s biggest companies have decided to migrate to somewhere cheaper (or plan to do so at some point). Check out the numbers:

With COVID-19 vaccination programs underway, companies have begun plotting how to get their employees back into the office. Many executives are embracing a hybridized model wherein employees spend two or three days per week at their office desk, then the balance of the week working from home. Others have decided to allow their teams to work remotely on a full-time basis.

For those technologists who moved to a new city in the past year, this return-to-office movement could cause some issues. For example, if your company mandates that employees should start coming back, but you’re currently living 500 miles away from your former desk, what do you do? You might be able to negotiate to work remotely full-time—but if your boss demands your physical presence in the office at least a few days per week, and you don’t want to move back, you might have to make some hard decisions about switching jobs.

From a company perspective, there’s also the question of retaining talent. What if an ultra-skilled machine-learning researcher moved to the other side of the country during the pandemic, and doesn’t particularly want to return? If they’re terminated, they’ll likely find another job at a company more than willing to let them work all-remote—and in the meantime, their original company has lost out on a vital team member. The need to maintain teams and project momentum could drive some hard decisions on the part of executives and team leaders.

The need to retain talent is possibly one of the key reasons why Twitter and Facebook decided to embrace an all-remote workforce rather than force their employees back into the office. In that case, the big question is whether those companies’ rivals—including Google and Microsoft—will follow suit in order to keep valuable employees happy. At the moment, many of tech’s biggest companies intend to get employees back into the office in some way.  

For those technologists who didn’t move away, things are potentially a lot simpler. A previous Blind survey showed that a majority of them (64 percent) want a hybrid work week, versus the 28 percent who preferred working remotely full-time. That echoes the Dice Sentiment Survey, conducted over summer 2020, which also found that technologists want a mix of in-office and remote work. 

The pandemic forced technologists everywhere to confront a number of issues, including loss of productivity and burnout. Now that companies are planning a return to (relative) normalcy sometime in 2021, a new set of complications has popped up—with potentially wide-ranging implications. 

3 Responses to “Are Technologists Still Moving Out of Major Tech Hubs Like Silicon Valley?”

  1. I think the current boom in real estate prices due to the short-term tactical alternative of WFH for most corporations (not just Hi Tech) is going to retract once vaccinations cover the majority of the active workforce, families, and remote University students. There’s way too much buy-in that WFH is going to be the new standard and that corporations will just relocate to some tax-free state or island-nation.

  2. Many companies have already moved to a distributed team model pre-pandemic. I see the WFH as a wind of change giving this concept more life. Today, companies that would not have considered WFH as a viable option have forcibly entertaining the WFH out of necessity and are starting conversations about the effects and value. Yes, IT and services were stretched and many have scrambled to ensure their employees could use their tools / systems from home. But with so many services having moved to the cloud and amazing internet speeds in our homes, the WFH experience has progressed well. Now companies are looking at the #2 cost in their business, realestate. It is ‘business’ after all! Do companies need to maintain so much space?
    Employees are able to balance lives a little better, plug in a little earlier and work a bit longer because the ease of access and no longer having a commute. In a technotropolis, many of us had a 15 mile commutes that took 1.5 hours each way. Now we can wake up 30 minutes later and still manage to get working sooner. Possibly more businesses will consider a reduced space and a more open mind toward WFH as a real resource strategy.

  3. DFIR Dude

    Everything is different now. We’ve now spent over a year proving that you don’t have to sit in traffic for 2+ hours per day and commute to the office just so the boss can see you sitting in a seat doing whatever you could have already been doing at home in the first place.

    The execs running IT companies who don’t understand how things have changed are not going to last long in this brave new world and they definitely won’t have the best talent, most likely likely be scraping the bottom of the barrel while collecting the most desperate and/or masochistic of personnel who will tolerate such requirements.

    All while suffering cyber attacks (like ransomware and data exfiltration) and shelling out six figure payments multiple times per year to pay information security consultants to investigate, remediate, and restore their operations (to whatever extent might be possible).