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COVID-19 & Relocation

COVID-19 is affecting every aspect of life, and relocation is no different. Moves for occurring more for personal reasons than required work relocations.

People boarding an airplane while wearing face masks.

The COVID-19 pandemic truly has been a generational event that’s impacted virtually every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Even as hope that its conclusion nears with more vaccines becoming available, the lingering effects are expected to be felt for years to come. Relocation and migration are no exception, and already, these areas have seen dramatic shifts in the past year.

Why Did Households Move During the Pandemic?

Roughly one in five Americans (22%) either relocated because of the pandemic or know someone who did. This was particularly true for younger individuals, specifically those ages 18-29, who made up the largest age group that moved because of COVID-19. Traditionally, moving for work has been the top reason a person or family moves, which continued to be the case in 2020. However, that reason only accounted for 40% of all moves, which is a notable decrease compared to previous years.

Is remote work driving people from big cities?

One of the more predominant narratives throughout the pandemic has been that workers are fleeing big, expensive cities in favor of cheaper locales since they can work remotely. When looking at the numbers, the idea of a mass exodus from major cities isn’t fully substantiated. According to one recent study, 48% of millennials – the largest block of the U.S. workforce (35%) – lived in the suburbs, up from 44% in 2019.

Conversely, 35% reported living in a city, down from 38% the previous year. While these numbers do represent significant year-over-year changes, ideas of city centers emptying out entirely should be tempered.

More people are looking for new jobs, open to remote possibilities

Something that may give employers heart burn: almost two-thirds of U.S. workers are either looking for a new job or would be receptive to an offer if approached. For workers under 30 years old, it’s even more pronounced, with 76% answering so. Part of this could be driven by more remote positions being available, which offers the freedom for individuals to work from anywhere. Since last March, LinkedIn has reported a 60% increase in remote job searches, with remote job applications increasing by a staggering 230%.

Personal health and well-being

Of those who moved because of COVID-19,  60% did so for their personal health and well-being and 53% did for their family’s health and well-being. According to a Pew study, many younger individuals moved because they believed the risk of contracting the coronavirus was more likely while living in their previous residence.

Also, how the coronavirus pandemic has affected workers’ mental health cannot be stressed enough. Almost half reported they have suffered some degree of job-related anxiety and depression. Given both the potential short- and long-term effects this may pose, employers should provide and communicate resources for those employees who may be struggling. According to a 2019 study, 68% of employees worry that reaching out for mental health benefits could negatively impact their job security.

Employee Relocation Statistics

How are COVID-19 vaccines impacting work and corporate travel?

On the corporate side, the COVID-19 vaccine presents both promise and new concerns. Many experts don’t expect corporate travel and relocation to return to pre-COVID levels until the vaccine becomes more widely available. Most organizations (56%) remain uncertain if they will institute a formal requirement for employees to get the vaccine before they can return to the office.

While the majority of Americans (56%) plan to get the vaccine as soon as it becomes widely available, more than a quarter (28%) have decided not to get it – even if it costs them their jobs. To help increase the overall percentage of vaccinated employees, many companies are using a variety of incentives such as bonuses, additional vacation days and even gift cards to encourage their employees to get vaccinated.

Other employee benefits to consider

Additionally, surveys have shown that employees are expecting greater flexibility around work schedules and locationsonce the pandemic subsides. Of all the new or revised policies implemented this past year, this was the most favored by employees, many of whom will expect such flexibility to remain even once it’s safe to return to the office. For those industries and positions where this is possible, companies should consider extending flex schedules and remote work accommodations indefinitely to avoid increased turnover. Keeping employees engaged while remote shouldn’t be an afterthought. Taking the right steps for all employees can help ensure everyone is both happy and productive.

As we all continue to navigate the pandemic into an eventual “new normal,” data and insights that examine the unique ways COVID-19 has impacted relocation and migration will be invaluable for organizations of all sizes. We’re pleased to share the final installment of our annual trends report series, which we hope can help inform your organization and support ongoing conversations around this topic!