The Covid-19 pandemic ushered in a fundamental transformation of how we work. Remote and hybrid work options have become the new norm for many companies. For the past several years, many companies have watched employees enjoy the flexibility of remote work as they move away from big metropolitan areas to smaller towns and cities.
These smaller towns, with their scenic landscapes and peaceful environments, offer a reprieve from urban chaos and enable workers a new opportunity to balance their personal and professional lives. Dubbed "Zoom towns," these destinations have seen a huge surge in demand. But, what's really behind the "Zoom towns" trend and why is it still relevant for HR leaders today?
What Are Zoom Towns?
Zoom towns are smaller cities or towns that have experienced an increase in population due to remote work trends. They are typically rural towns located close to scenic or recreational areas, making them an attractive option for people looking for better work-life wellness. The rise of remote work has given people the flexibility to work from anywhere, thereby prompting them to move to quieter and more rural areas that offer more affordable housing, a slower pace of life, and easy access to nature.
According to Rocket Mortgage, the most popular Zoom towns in the US in 2023 are:
- Centennial, Colorado (Denver metro)
- Frisco, Texas (Dallas metro)
- Bellevue, Washington (Seattle metro)
- Carlsbad, California (San Diego metro)
- Fremont, California (San Francisco Bay Area)
This shift is not just limited to the US. Zoom towns are popping up globally, with countries such as Canada, Spain, and Portugal all experiencing an uptick in demand for remote-friendly towns. According to a 2022 study by Upwork, nearly 5 million Americans have already moved because of remote work since 2020, and an additional 18.9 million people are planning to move because of remote work.
Why Are Zoom Towns Popular?
Who wouldn't love the smell of crisp mountain air while you snuggle up with your morning coffee and check your email? Sounds relaxing, doesn't it? The Covid-19 pandemic has made millions of employees re-evaluate their priorities, with many now valuing a better quality of life over the allure of big cities. Recent research from NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll shows that nearly 40% of Americans who receive a paycheck changed jobs in the past two years, citing remote work as one of the reasons for the change. People are no longer willing to sacrifice their personal lives for their careers, and the ability to work remotely has given them the opportunity to focus on their wellbeing.
Some small towns are even providing monetary incentives for fully remote workers to move to their towns. During the pandemic, the Northwest Arkansas Council’s Life Works Here initiative offered 100 recipients out of over 66,000 applicants $10,000 and a mountain or road bike to relocate to the region. Some towns across the US still have similar programs active today.
Why Are Zoom Towns Relevant for HR Leaders Today?
Aside from the obvious tax and payroll implications of having remote workers located in different regions, the continued popularity of Zoom towns has other implications for HR leaders and employers today. With the rapidly changing availability of qualified candidates in today's labor market, HR leaders constantly need to evaluate their policies and benefits strategies to ensure they can remain competitive and attract and retain top talent . Some employers who offer fully remote work may even want to consider reassessing their compensation strategies and other policies to reflect the cost of living in the different areas their employees flock to.
But, what's really behind the remote work Zoom towns trend? Is it really the flexibility of remote work that's causing employees to pick up and move sometimes hours away? Whether your company is pro remote work or not, you can't deny the pandemic caused a shift in priorities for employees. A recent Zippa research study found that 64% of remote workers would consider quitting if forced to go back to the office full-time.
The truth is, we're in a crisis of wellbeing. A recent study revealed that 49% of 18-29 year-olds reported feeling burned out and 38% of workers over the age of 30 reported feeling burned out. Our proprietary research in our State of Work-Life Wellness 2022 Report found that 25% of US workers don’t feel their work allows them to take time for their wellbeing. A quarter of US employees state that they don’t think their employer demonstrates they care about their wellbeing. It's no wonder employees are flocking to quaint small towns that offer an escape from the stress and burnout of everyday work life.
As an employer, you can help support employee wellbeing whether you're in the office or in a remote environment. A workplace that offers wellness programs that support mental, emotional and physical wellness will make an impact for the better. For true work-life wellness, you need a system that actually encourages employees to prioritize their health so that they can perform at their best and find genuine happiness.
There's something to be said for the surge of Zoom towns and the lure of true relaxation. But if you ask us, the root of the problem is a lack of true employee wellness. You can give your employees the tools to improve their wellbeing, stress, and fatigue.Reach out to one of our wellbeing specialists today to learn how you can tailor your wellness program to improve your employee experience!
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.