If you want to live outside an expensive city like San Francisco or New York, it pays to have specialized knowledge. So suggests a new survey out of Upwork, the freelancing platform created from the 2013 merger of Elance and oDesk that connects businesses and independent contractors.
According to feedback from more than 1,005 workforce hiring decision-makers conducted on Upwork’s behalf by the company ClearlyRated, skilled workers can pretty much live wherever they want and employers will come to them. The reason: companies say they are struggling to find talent, with the average position open for 36 days and some engineering jobs vacant for up to 45 days.
In fact, though the majority of organizations surveyed — 57 percent — don’t support a work-from-home policy, those that do say they’ve become increasingly inclusive of people who work outside the office, and five times as many hiring managers expect more of their team to work remotely in the next decade than expect less. Put simply, they say the most skilled person for the job outweighs that person’s ability to work in the same location as the rest of the team.
The survey’s findings aren’t a huge surprise for a number of reasons, including that it’s in Upwork’s interests to promote the idea that freelancing is where it’s at. (The more freelancers it has to choose from, the better for its platform.)
It’s also the case that mobility has slowed dramatically, with slightly more than one in ten Americans (11.2 percent) moving between 2015 and 2016 — roughly half the rate that it was 60 years ago, when the Census began tracking American mobility. In some situations, people simply can’t move, particularly in cases where their homes act as a kind of tether. But many more are choosing not to move, including because the cost of living is higher elsewhere and because they are finding job opportunities where they are.
That’s especially true if they’re more educated. A separate workforce study — also published recently by a flexible-hiring company, also in concert with an independent third party — reported that telecommuting is most common among management positions, with professional, scientific and technical services industries featuring the highest percentage of telecommuters relative to their share of the workforce.
It isn’t a trend that looks to wane, says Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel. “People aren’t just doing this and saying they’d go back to traditional hiring if they could. Looking out over the next ten years at least, it’s clear that this is the new normal. Roughly 38 percent of full-time workers will be working remotely by 2027.”
Workers “want to do this,” says Kasriel. And “in the current labor market, skilled workers have their way.”
Interestingly, Kasriel argues that “city planners aren’t thinking sufficiently” about the shape of workforces and how they are evolving. He believes cities will be organized differently as a result.
That’s something he shares in common with renowned investor Peter Thiel. Talking last fall at a conference in Saudi Arabia, Thiel suggested that an underrated trend that merits far more attention is telecommuting and how its rise will change the physical landscape. Said Thiel, “The transportation-related technology that I wonder about more than self-driving cars is, is there some way to do an end run around our broken transportation systems, and the IT version that people have talked about for decades is telecommuting.”
It’s a “trend that’s worth exploring a lot more,” he’d added.