Tech Exodus: 30% of Tech Workers Have Already Left Major Cities During Covid-19, Survey Shows

Thomas Smith

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Covid-19 is surging across the country and around the world, with cases increasing dramatically in many major US cities. Amid the pandemic, many employers have allowed their staff members to work remotely. This is especially true in the tech industry, where many jobs can be done remotely, and partially-remote teams were part of daily reality even before the pandemic.

With several companies making in-person work optional on a permanent basis following Covid-19, however, many tech workers are considering whether they ever want to return to a physical office. Many workers live in expensive cities or regions like Silicon Valley, to allow for easy commuting to tech companies’ headquarters.

Without the requirement to work on site, many tech workers are realizing that they can keep their jobs while moving out of cities and the expensive metropolitan areas that surround them.

According to a new survey by Blind in partnership with ROOM8, 30% of tech workers have moved out of the metropolitan area where they had resided prior to the pandemic. This “Tech Exodus” could have major implications for the technology industry, and for the tax base of cities that focus heavily on the tech industry.

The cities most affected by the tech exodus are Chicago and New York City. In those cities, 43% and 40% respectively of tech workers surveyed had already moved from the region as a result of remote work and the pandemic. Around 30% had moved out of Seattle, Austin, and Los Angeles. The San Francisco Bay Area had the smallest tech exodus effect, with only 21% of surveyed professionals saying that they had moved outside of the region.

Not all employers are offering permanent work from home options. But around 50% of surveyed professionals said that their companies offered either “permanent” or “some permanent” work from home options. This was a major factor driving the tech exodus.

Tech professionals who move are less likely to seek a roommate than in normal times. Only 38% said they would feel comfortable having a roommate or other co-living arrangement. Most cited Covid-19 infection concerns as their reason for not seeking co-living arrangements.

Will the tech exodus be permanent? The survey data suggests that it may be. Only 40% of tech professionals who had left their city planned to return. Many may seek less expensive places to live permanently, now that they can telecommute to their tech job.

Preferences regarding returning depended on the city, however. Around 80% of Chicago tech workers who had left the city planned to return, although many indicated that they would not return for a year or more. Overall, though, this bodes well for the future of the city.

Some workers may move around within a region, as well. One factor in the Bay Area’s lower tech exodus numbers is the large size of the region. Workers who move out of the expensive Silicon Valley may move to a less expensive section of the Bay Area, such as the East Bay. They would still be counted as living in the metropolitan area, despite leaving their original location. The Bay Area’s size and geographic diversity may contribute to its relatively low tech exodus numbers.

Covid-19 is having profound impacts on the industry. More geographically spread out technology workers may benefit smaller towns nationwide. But those benefits may come at a cost for major cities who have built their economies around tech.

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Award-winning entrepreneur, and the co-founder and CEO of Gado Images. Thomas writes, speaks and consults about artificial intelligence, privacy, food, photography, tech, and the San Francisco Bay Area. As a professional photographer, Thomas' photographic work regularly appears in publications worldwide. Pitches/news tips: tom@gadoimages.com

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