After logging in remotely for the past year and a half, many employees are dreaming of leaving the confines of their too-familiar homes to start the next stage of WFH: working from anywhere.
Among the extensive list of possible destinations that they could head off to, the likes of Madrid, Toronto and Auckland could be among the top picks, according to new research, while traditional business hotspots like London or New York are dropping down to the bottom of the list.
Remote, an HR startup that helps companies employ remote staff, has analyzed different aspects that are key to the life of a remote worker in cities and regions all over the world to determine its list of the top 100 destinations for those who are keen to leave office life firmly in the past.
Data was aggregated on different destinations about internet speeds, attractiveness (ranging from cultural life to natural landscapes), crime rates, cost of living, quality of life (including data about air pollution, for instance) and openness, as well as incentives for remote workers, which can take the form of special types of visa or financial assistance.
The verdict? Topping the charts for all seven aspects was Toronto in Canada, followed by Madrid, Auckland, Madeira and Helsinki.
Remote also investigated the appeal of different destinations for specific criteria: for example, Honolulu, Sydney and Reykjavik are among the top destinations with the best quality of life for remote workers, while Bucharest or Valparaiso will offer lower costs of living.
And while the idea of packing your bags and setting off to a foreign city located in another continent – while still being able to keep your job – might have seemed out of the question a few years ago, Remote's co-founder Job van der Voort is a firm believer that from now on, it will be up to employees to decide where they would like to work from.
The main reason for this is that many workers have been carrying out their duties remotely for the past months as the COVID-19 pandemic kept city-center offices shut. "There is not strong enough evidence that we should be in the office to do our work successfully," says van der Voort. "Everybody knows that. Now, we have the freedom of working from wherever we want."
It didn't take long for employees to start fleeing the cities that were home to their company offices, choosing instead to base themselves in cheaper and more welcoming locations. Nowhere has this been more evident than in Silicon Valley, which was left behind by many employees wanting to relocate – while dreamy destinations like Lake Tahoe, in contrast, saw a sudden influx of tech workers looking for a house and a decent internet connection.
The trend will not be short-lived, van der Voort argues, who is adamant that employees will increasingly move away from the mega-cities that have been, until now, business epicenters. He talks from experience: as the father of young children, he has decided to settle down in a small suburban town in the Netherlands, where he lives opposite the primary school and can afford housing.
"I would pay five times what I'm paying here to live in the center of Amsterdam," says van der Voort. "We see a lot of people leaving those places for that reason. They might be hubs, and they might have great companies, but in the absence of needing to go to a particular place to work from there, they are also extremely expensive places to live."
In London, for example, the onerous costs of living have dragged the city down to the 78th spot on Remote's list, despite scoring high on openness and quality of life. San Francisco, for its part, came 96th.
At the same time, less-known regions are jumping on the opportunity to attract remote workers. Whether it is to encourage economic growth or rejuvenate an area with an ageing population, some municipalities are coming up with enticing offers designed to encourage employees to relocate.
Aruba, says Remote, offers the best incentives thanks to a program dubbed "One Happy Workation", which allows remote workers to live on the island for up to 90 days with discounted prices on accommodation like resorts and rental homes.
There are many others: Cabo Verde exempts remote workers from income tax, while Emilia-Romagna in Italy will pay young families almost £25,000 ($34,000) to relocate. In total, Remote found that 44 countries and 24 US states currently have remote work incentives in some form or other.
"Some of these have existed for many years but most are really new, and we see more and more popping up," says van der Voort. "There are things like remote-working visas, tax incentives, relocation payments, housing incentives and more. It's municipalities saying that they are going to incentivize you for coming because they need to have young, successful, high-earning people to bring new life to the community."
Employers are coming round to the idea, says van der Voort, which is reflected in the growing number of companies going fully remote or remote-first. Tech giants such as Facebook, Twitter, Square or Salesforce have already announced plans to let employees work from their own choice of location; and Coinbase, Shopify, Box and Intel are only a handful among a multitude of companies to have laid out similar ambitions.
Whether it is the cost of living, the internet infrastructure, the weather or the view from the living-room window, employees now get to pick the reasons to move to a new place – rather than making decisions based on the length of their commute. "Hubs will become less and less of a thing," says van der Voort.
Of course, it is too soon to call it the end of the traditional office. Some workers are bound to still prefer commuting to a workspace for the day, and companies are unlikely to get rid of their entire physical presence for the time being. The difference, argues van der Voort, is that where they work is now a decision to be made by employees themselves – whether that ends up being a Silicon Valley campus, or an island off the coast of Portugal.