Working from home has never been easier. Thanks to advances in technology, many professionals can plow through their to-do lists from the comfort of their couch. However, some cities are better for remote work than others.
Cities that are more appealing to telecommuters have higher earning power for the remote workers who live there and more remote work opportunities. Additionally, cities with longer commute times also make it more appealing for residents to choose to work from home.
To determine the best cities for working from home, MagnifyMoney combed through the Census Bureauâ€™s 2018 1-Year American Community Survey. We examined the 100 largest U.S. cities by the number of workers, classifying them by metrics related to how many people work from home, their earning power and their cost of living.
Topping our studyâ€™s ranking of the best cities to work from home is Gilbert, Ariz. Gilbert, a suburb located southeast of Phoenix, measures just over 72 square miles and has a population of more than 230,000.
Our study found that the average person working from home in Gilbert makes $1.32 for every dollar the average person makes, earning it a tie for the 20th spot regarding that metric. Gilbert also ranked high for two metrics measuring the cityâ€™s overall work-from-home climate. It ranked fourth for its share of remote workers, with 4.90% of residents working from home, and sixth for the percent change in the number of people working from home from 2017 to 2018, a 1.20% year-over-year increase. Additionally, the average commute time of a typical worker in Gilbert is 28 minutes, earning Gilbert the 27th spot for that metric as telecommuters are saving nearly half an hour each way.
All of these metrics contributed to Gilbertâ€™s overall top ranking, making it a great option for telecommuters looking for a balanced lifestyle of good pay, a remote work-friendly culture and a decent chunk of time saved from commuting.
Atlanta snags the spot for the second best city to work from home, thanks to the high earning power of remote workers and a culture friendly to telecommuting. Atlanta has a high work-from-home rate, with 4.50% of people working from home, earning it a sixth-place ranking for that metric. Remote workers in Atlanta make $1.13 for every dollar the average worker pulls in, and housing costs accounted for just 27% of a remote workerâ€™s earnings, landing it the 22nd spot for that metric.
Rounding out the top three for our study on the best cities to work from home is Aurora, Colo. Auroraâ€™s rankings were boosted by the fact that remote workers in Aurora make $1.41 for every dollar that the average person makes â€” earning the city the 11th spot for that metric. The city also boasts 3.50% of people working from home, which landed it in 19th spot for that metric. Additionally, workers in Aurora had an average commute time of 30 minutes, which means, conversely, remote workers get to skip out on a half hour long-commute, earning the city the 18th spot for the commute time metric.
Overall, the best state to work remotely seems to be Arizona â€” three cities, all Phoenix suburbs, cracked our studyâ€™s top 10 best cities to work from home ranking: Gilbert (first), Chandler (seventh) and Scottsdale (tenth). Another state with a strong presence in our studyâ€™s top 10 best cities to work from home is Colorado, with Aurora ranking second and Denver ranking sixth.
The U.S. city falling to the bottom of our studyâ€™s ranking â€” making it the worst city to work from home â€” is Toledo, Ohio. Located in the northwest region of Ohio, Toledo has a population of around 276,000.
Remote workers in Toledo pulled in far less than the average worker, earning just $0.58 for every $1 earned by an average worker and resulting in the city ranking 99th for that metric. Additionally, remote workers in Toledo spent an average of 51% of their earnings on housing, underscoring remote workersâ€™ overall low earning power. Toledo also had a staggeringly low percentage of residents working remotely â€” 0.90% â€” which indicates the poor overall culture of remote work and opportunity in the city.
The second worst city to work from home, according to our study, is El Paso, Texas. Remote workers in El Paso also had dismal earning power, with people who work from home making just $0.81 for every dollar earned by the average worker, and housing costs accounting for 45% of remote workersâ€™ earnings. Like Toledo, El Paso also had a relatively low percentage of remote workers overall, with 1.60% of people working from home, placing the city 87th for that metric.
Meanwhile, our study found that Greenboro, N.C., is the third worst city to work from home. Greensboro ranked last for the metric measuring the growth in the number of people working from home, with 1.90% fewer people working remotely in 2018 compared to 2017, indicating a possible decline in remote work opportunity there. Remote workers also werenâ€™t saving a particularly significant amount of time by telecommuting, with the average commute time for residents in Greensboro being just 21 minutes.
Overall, our study found that there are bad cities for working from home nationwide, from the Northeast all the way to the West Coast.
Roughly a decade ago, as technology became more advanced and workforces became increasingly mobile, there were predictions of a â€śtelecommuting revolutionâ€ť in which more and more employees would begin working remotely.
Indeed, a recent study from FlexJobs found that between 2005 and 2017, remote work has grown 159%. However, this massive explosion in growth in the last decade and a half slowed to just 7.9% between 2016 to 2017 â€” evidence that the movement is losing steam.
Our study also found a fairly stagnant remote workforce in the 100 most populated U.S. cities from 2017 to 2018. Even the city that ranked first for the metric measuring the growth of the number of people working from home from 2017 to 2018 â€” Irvine, California â€” had just a 2.40% increase in the number of telecommuters. Additionally, our study revealed a slew of cities in which there were a smaller share of remote workers in 2018 than there were in 2017, including Washington D.C., Orlando and St. Louis.
While the number of remote workers might not be completely stagnant, these are certainly signs that the telecommuting movement might be slowing down. So, whatâ€™s to blame for the seemingly slowing growth of the â€śtelecommuting revolutionâ€ť? One explanation might be linked to perceived worker productivity. In 2013, for example, Yahoo yanked its employeesâ€™ remote privileges and shortly after cited increased levels of productivity and employee engagement.
Additionally, a 2018 survey from Randstad USA found that employees might not be buying into the idea either. While 82% of workers said being able to work from home helps them maintain their work-life balance, 62% said they still prefer working in the office, a number that was even higher among younger generations.
As is the case with clocking your 9-to-5 hours in a cubicle, there are both advantages and disadvantages to working from the comfort of your couch.
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For our study, we looked at data from the 2018 Census Bureauâ€™s 1-Year American Community Survey. Metrics analyzed included:
To create the final rankings, we ranked each city in each metric. Using these rankings, we created a final index based on each cityâ€™s average ranking. The city with the best average ranking received the highest score, while the city with the lowest average ranking received the lowest score. The cities were then indexed based on the best possible score.