Cities and states are shelling out serious cash to lure remote workers.
Tulsa, Oklahoma, will pay you $10,000 to move there and telework. West Virginia is offering $12,000 and two years of free outdoor gear rental. Move to Maine, and the state will help you pay off your student loans.
These incentives are appealing, especially for newly minted remote workers who want to capitalize on their newfound flexibility. But a snap decision could cost more than the money you’re chasing.
Read the program fine print, talk to your employer and assess your own deal breakers before you pack your bags and head to Topeka, Kansas, where remote workers can get up to $10,000.
Understand the process, requirements
Most remote relocation programs have an application process with several rounds of interviews to screen prospective residents. Only a fraction of applicants are accepted.
Tulsa Remote accepted just 3% of its 30,000 applicants in 2021, according to Justin Harlan, managing director of Tulsa Remote.
The Opportunity Maine Tax Credit doesn’t cap participation, but it does have a host of other stipulations. Whether the tax credit is refundable, for example, depends on the year you graduated and your field of study.
And the Ascend West Virginia program only accepts applicants for certain cities, at certain times of the year.
Relocation incentives are designed to boost the local tax base, so most programs pay the benefit over a year or two. And many encourage you to put down roots.
Tulsa Remote will pay the $10,000 in a lump sum if you buy a home (the cash is otherwise spread out over the first year). In Topeka, remote work applicants need to buy a home to get the full $10,000.
And don’t forget, any bonus may be taxed as income, so you need to set some money aside for the IRS.
Assess impact to your current, future employment
Remote work still has some limits. Understand your employers’ expectations before applying or moving, as certain things can impact your quality of life in your new locale.
If your company and colleagues are all on the West Coast, for example, you may be expected to keep those hours, even if you relocate to Maine. That can make for some late nights.
Your new city may have a lower cost of living than your current home base — that’s typically part of the appeal. Will your company adjust your salary to your new cost of living? You want to be crystal clear on that before taking the leap.
“Financially, you should be prepared to take a pay cut if you’re relocating from a major city to somewhere less costly,” says Tina Hawk, senior vice president of human resources at GoodHire, which provides employee screening and background checks for businesses.
Most relocation programs are only open to those who already have full-time employment with an out-of-state company (Maine is an exception). But no job is guaranteed forever, so you need to research the local job market.
How easy will it be to find a new gig if you are laid off? Are there opportunities locally if you outgrow your current company? If you dream of someday starting a business, is your potential new home friendly to entrepreneurs?
Determine your deal breakers
While money is important, it’s not what makes a place liveable. Take stock of what’s important to you — things like restaurants, networking, walkability or outdoor activities — and identify your deal breakers.
“The incentive can get your attention, but the meat of the matter is, when you get there, you gotta stay,” says Nate Wildes, executive director of Live + Work in Maine.
Even “Vacationland” is not for everyone, Wildes admits. “We’re a four-season place. If you hate snow and you hate snow shoveling, look somewhere else, please.”
Don’t just assume you’ll like or dislike a place. Experience it firsthand to get a true sense of the city’s vibe. You might be surprised.
Maria Kim, 28, certainly was. The former Washington, D.C., resident moved to Tulsa as part of the Tulsa Remote program in March 2021.
Initially on the fence, Kim decided to take the leap after visiting the city and meeting with other members of the program, which puts a strong emphasis on networking and community.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” says Kim, who freelances full time as a copywriter. “The city is busy. You’re able to get the small-town benefits with big-city energy, and you can explore without so much excess.”
GaudiLab // Shutterstock
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, many personal opinions on remote work have changed. Some of those perspectives are split by generation. Gen Zers and millennials, for example, were more likely to prefer a hybrid work week, citing concerns of mental health and burnout during the pandemic.
However, members across all generations had reservations about working remotely every day. Only 21.4% of Gen Xers and baby boomers wanted to do so, according to a Hubble HQ survey. And that’s already a significant increase compared to the percentage of Gen Zers and millennials who wanted to do the same. That’s in line with employers’ perspectives, as per a January 2021 PWC survey, which showed 62% leaned toward having employees in office for two to four days a week.
As companies either begin to return in person or continue evaluating the new ideal workday, Pyn compiled a list of generational perspectives on remote work from 2019 to 2021 from news, think tanks, and industry reports and found that younger generations reported more difficulties with remote work.
Jacob Lund // Shutterstock
A March 2021 Microsoft survey found that 60% of Gen Zers between 18 and 25 years old were “merely surviving or flat-out struggling.” The group was also more likely to feel exhausted after a workday. Gen Zers were also more likely than other generations to struggle balancing work with life; an August 2021 Adobe report found that Gen Z respondents were less satisfied with their work-life balance than other generations.
However, a MetLife study found the opposite—that half of the workers in their 20s thought their work-life balance was better than before the pandemic, compared to only a quarter of baby boomers. Members of Gen Z were also more likely to be living with parents or friends and couldn’t create the ideal home workspace, Hubble HQ reported in August 2021. Accordingly, 37% of Gen Zers said they missed the office as a dedicated work environment, compared to 25.6% of millennials and 19.8% of Gen Xers and baby boomers.
Vera Petrunina // Shutterstock
A Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll conducted in July 2021 found that 43% of Gen Zers reported a decrease in productivity during remote work, the highest percentage of any other generation. These individuals, ranging between 18 and 24 years old, are either early in their careers or even in their first job, which could be particularly difficult without in-person guidance and onboarding, Fortune pointed out.
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Gen Z’s struggles are exacerbated by changes to working hours and wages, according to the Center for Generational Kinetics' 2020 Study on Leading Multiple Generations Remotely. A quarter of Gen Z respondents in the study reported lowered salaries or wages and 45% had fewer work hours, according to the report. A third also said their job’s main focus had deviated from its original description.
Additionally, 60% of Gen Xers and 52% of millennials said they would save money working at home, according to a March 2020 National Research Group report. These two generations were also most concerned about the pandemic's financial impact.
Between 49% of Gen Zers and 55% of millennials reported feeling pressure to perform to the best of their capabilities, according to a March 2021 Nationwide and Ipsos MORI survey. A total of 62% of Gen Zers also reported feeling pressure to align with the typical 9-to-5 workday, even though a quarter preferred to work outside of the standard office hours, according to an August 2021 Adobe report.
Roughly half of the employees across all generations were working outside of business hours, according to MetLife’s study, and only 8% of baby boomers took more paid time off than in previous years.
GaudiLab // Shutterstock
Even within one generation, there are differing perspectives on remote work. Eighty-seven percent of Gen Z workers between 18 to 24 years old who entered the workforce remotely during the pandemic said work-life balance was their top work priority, Citrix’s “Born Digital” report found. In contrast, 87% of Gen Z members who began working prior to the pandemic prioritized job satisfaction.
Jacob Lund // Shutterstock
Gen Zers and baby boomers were more likely than other generations to apply to remote jobs, according to LinkedIn. Gen Zers were 17% more likely to apply to remote work than other generations, which LinkedIn attributes to the generation’s familiarity with technology and virtual collaboration.
Meanwhile, baby boomers were 15% more likely to apply to remote work than other generations. This could be because of skepticism about returning to work in-person, LinkedIn suggests. Senior company positions might also allow for greater flexibility in remote work. Some baby boomers are leaning into remote work as an opportunity to extend their careers before retirement.
Millennials were most concerned about stress and burnout during remote working, according to The Conference Board’s June 2021 “Return to Work” survey. Within the 25% of respondents who expressed mental health concerns, 70% of millennials listed stress and burnout as their top concern, compared to 59% and 42% of Gen Xers and baby boomers, respectively.
In addition, half of Gen Z and 43% of millennials said remote work has led to “undue pressure on their health and wellbeing,” according to a March 2021 Ipsos MORI survey. Despite this, 41% of millennial employees were engaged with their work, according to a December 2020 Gallup survey—the highest ever the analytics company had ever seen.
With all of the above in mind, Gen Zers and millennials were less likely to prefer fully remote work weeks than Gen Xers and baby boomers, Hubble HQ found. And these generations were also more likely to consider quitting their job if there weren’t flexible remote work options, according to a poll by Morning Consult on behalf of Bloomberg News. Forty-nine percent of millennials and Gen Zers would think about quitting, compared to 39% across all generations.
More than half of Gen Zers and millennials preferred a hybrid work week, with three days at home and two days in person, a March 2021 Ipsos MORI poll found. These generations said face-to-face interaction improves their work. More than half of employees between the ages of 18 to 29 reported a lack of motivation in their work, Pew Research Center reported in December 2020. And online video calls left 40% of surveyed workers between the ages of 18 and 49 feeling worn out, compared to 31% of older generations.
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All of this has implications for the future of remote work as well. Even prior to the pandemic, 69% of millennial and Gen Z managers had employees who work remotely, according to Upwork’s 2019 Future Workforce Report. Seventy-four percent of managers said they had team members who worked remotely a “significant portion of their time,” compared to only 58% of baby boomers.
This story originally appeared on Pyn and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.