The pandemic has been a grand global experiment in the costs and benefits of a remote workforce. But long before the coronavirus hit, many people worked from outside offices. A new report that looks at pre-pandemic remote-work data found that allowing off-site work could be a way to direct wealth away from the 15 most expensive U.S. metros, where jobs and opportunity have been concentrated in recent years.
The report by Upwork, an online platform that connects businesses and freelancers, found that while about half of spending came from businesses based in the top 15 metros in 2018, a much larger 72% of earnings went to workers located outside the 15 metro areas, meaning a significant share of the spending was flowing from larger cities to workers in smaller ones. Upwork is not exactly a neutral party, and the new report’s stated purpose is to highlight the economic benefits of remote work. The data nonetheless offers potentially important insights at a time when both small cities and workers are in even greater need of an economic boost than they were prior to the pandemic.