More remote workers are moving to smaller towns as part of workplace redesign

CHICAGO — For Marcus Medsker, the pace of life in Quincy, Illinois, is slow. And he likes it that way.

Medsker, senior director of customer sales at Echo Global Logistics, lived in a two-bedroom condo in Chicago’s River North neighborhood just over a year ago. But when his wife became pregnant with their second child, they decided to move to his hometown.

The 37-year-old grew up in Quincy and said his December 2020 return was somewhat unexpected. But the low cost of living and small-town vibe has made living with young children much easier, and he said his closeness to his family was one of the most special things about his comeback. .

Before the pandemic, moving to another city wasn’t much of an option for Medsker, who is now a father of three.

“Me, working remotely was never really on the table, so until it became fully available, that’s when we kind of decided to look at Quincy,” he said. -he declares.

Medsker is one of millions of Americans who have worked from home during the pandemic. As the average number of COVID-19 cases continues to decline in the United States, many employers are cautiously optimistic about returning to the office. But for some, the changes in the remote workplace are permanent.

According to a January Pew Research Center survey, about 59% of American workers who say their work can be done primarily remotely work from home all or most of the time. Since 2020, the share of people declaring that they have moved outside their work area has increased from 9% to 17%.

On the MakeMyMove website, people can browse a range of incentive packages offered in cities and towns across the United States. If they decide to move, they can submit an application to the destination of their choice.

Evan Hock, co-founder and chief product officer at MakeMyMove, which launched in December 2020, said he believes remote working has given people the freedom to tailor their lifestyle to their personal preferences, not the location of their employers. As a result, he said many remote workers choose to move to smaller towns because of affordability and opportunities to connect with the local community.

“A lot of these small towns and rural towns happen to offer a lot of what people leaving the big cities are looking for,” Hock said.

In fact, Nicholas Epley, a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, said the sense of community people find in small towns can sometimes replace some of the social connections that are lost in working environments. remote work.

Epley said social connection happens more when real, in-person conversations happen. While most people understand the value of ties to family and close friends, he said they often underestimate the importance of weaker, more distant ties.

“Acquaintances, more distant colleagues, even conversations with strangers are also important for our well-being,” he said. “What you’re going to lose when you don’t go to the office regularly is a wider social network that comes from connecting formally and informally with the colleagues you work with.”

While those more distant connections can be lost by working remotely, Epley said it’s certainly possible to find them elsewhere, such as in a small town.

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