The landscape of work is changing in ways unimagined before the pandemic. According to a Gallup poll that surveyed more than 140,000 US workers since the pandemic onset, 59% of employees with remote-capable jobs prefer a hybrid work location and 32% prefer exclusively remote. Companies are struggling to maintain productivity and connectivity while extending flexibility. New tactics include redesigning workplaces to make them more collaborative and appealing, as well as offering subsidies for gas, parking and lunch.
The impact of fewer workers in the office extends beyond the companies for which they work. Many cities, which were nearing 100% office occupancy when the pandemic was declared in March of 2020, are now struggling to get back to the June national rate of 44%, a post-pandemic high.
Who’s benefiting? Small cities, sometimes called Zoom Towns, have seen increases in population as workers flee high-cost cities with long commute times and high crime rates. Some cities have taken notice and are proactively incentivising remote workers or the companies that employ them.
Cities like Tulsa, Oklahoma; Topeka, Kansas; the metropolitan area of Northwest Arkansas; and the Shoals region in Alabama are all offering a $10,000 cash incentive to relocating remote workers if they meet certain requirements. And Harmony, Minnesota offers up to $12,000 towards new home construction. The idea is to attract workers to the city where they can make a social and fiscal impact regardless of where their place of employment is located.
But what about incentivising companies to employ local residents for remote positions? Wichita Falls, Texas, a town of just over 100,000 an hour north-west of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, has implemented a ‘Cash for Jobs’ programme that pays companies to employ Wichita Falls residents for remote work even if the company has no physical presence in the community. The negotiated cash incentive is targeted toward retaining pending local university graduates and exiting military personnel and their spouses.
As is the transition to remote and hybrid work, these programmes are in their infancy. Where the chips, or workers in this case, eventually fall will only be told with time. In the interim, companies, workers and the communities in which they operate must be flexible in their strategies to maintain and build robust, dynamic economies.
Didi Caldwell is the president and founding principal of Global Location Strategies, a global site selection consultancy, and also a member of the Site Selectors Guild.
This article first appeared in the August/September 2022 print edition of fDi Intelligence. View a digital edition of the magazine here.