SALT LAKE CITY — A recent report rates two Utah cities among the best in the nation for working from home.
After the coronavirus pandemic forced scores of workers around the country to transition working from the comfort of their own homes, an analysis from pcmag.com found some of the most suitable places to do that include a couple of small towns in the Beehive State. They may lack the urban bustle of a big city, but they more than make up for it with the amenities that allow for a nearly idyllic work-from-home environment.
Among the local towns that made the cut were Kaysville at No. 4 and Carbon County seat Price coming at No. 22.
"Because of the pandemic, a lot of people have been either leaving high-cost metro areas for lower-cost metro areas, or at the very least fantasizing about remote work has become more and more common," said Sascha Segan, a lead analyst for New York-based pcmag.com and co-author of "The Best Work-From-Home Cities for 2021." For those looking to abandon small, expensive living situations in order to work from home for good, numerous American and Canadian cities offer affordability, livability and connectivity that their large metro counterparts have a tough time matching, he said.
Topping the list was Chattanooga, Tennessee, followed by Bear River Valley, California, in second, Pawlet, Vermont, third, Kaysville in fourth, and then Jonesborough, Tennessee, coming in fifth.
"We started with the frequent usage of gigabit broadband. Because in my mind, the No. 1 thing you need for a good work-from-home lifestyle is fast broadband. Without that, you're not going anywhere," he said. "I was looking for mostly smaller communities all around America that have broadband access and have some potential opportunity for people working at home."
Researchers gathered data from Ookla Speedtest, BestPlaces.net, and BroadbandNow to locate 50 American and Canadian cities and towns that have a combination of affordable housing, gigabit internet capability and reasonably priced internet connections, along with remote, work-friendly lifestyles.
The list includes large cities, suburbs and small towns that all have median house prices below $500,000, he said.
"The second thing I thought people would be looking for is a decently sized affordable house to work in, so we threw some real estate prices in there (and) we went through the average size of homes," Segan said. One of the big advantages that helped Utah score well other than the obvious natural beauty was that houses "tend to be really big," he said.
"Since one of our criteria was large affordable homes — because if you're working from home, you may want a separate office, you may want spaces to work in," Segan said. "This was all kind of from a pandemic perspective, so those big Utah houses really pushed the area up."
Also, there needed to be some nice spots to take a break nearby.
"We worked with BestPlaces.net to throw in a couple of amenities like parks and coffee shops on the principle that if a person working from home is going to be working out of their home, they are pretty frequently going to be working at a coffee shop," he said.
Scenery was an important factor as well.
"It's a very quirky list of a lot of unexpected places and that's on purpose," he explained. "What we're trying to do here is expand people's imagination about where in America they can find their fortune."
The U.S. Census has reported a rise in people working from home each year since 2010, increasing from 4.3% to 5.7% by 2019, with the pandemic accelerating that growth, Segan said. A June 2020 report from Statista showed that up to 11.2% of workers in a range of industries elected to stay home to work, with 22% of workers saying they would be open to working from home on a permanent basis.
"There's a whole bunch of places on our list where you may look at them and say, 'These places don't seem very upscale,'" Segan said. "That's because low real estate prices with gigabit broadband were a major factor in our calculation, because we were looking for potential value."
It's a very quirky list of a lot of unexpected places and that's on purpose.
–Sascha Segan, a lead analyst for pcmag.com
Regarding methodology, half the score was based on affordability, with the other half based on livability — broken up into various subsets.
Thirty percent of the rating went to a median home value index, with lower values getting a better rating. Twenty percent went to the minimum price for gigabit broadband, with lower prices pulling a higher rating.
For livability, 10% of the rating went to median home size, while 10% also went to the percentage of home-based workers in the community, he said.
"Towns that already have strong work-at-home communities will have the amenities to support them," he said. Another 10% of the rating went to the scenery that boasted natural beauty such as coastlines, mountains or numerous parks.
Lastly, 20% of the rating went to the presence of coffee shops, the percentage of local nonchain restaurants, the percentage of residents in arts and education, along with the percentage of residents in health care diagnostic and treatment professions. Each of the four categories received 5% consideration.
"The list is very much a whole bunch of balanced factors trying to come up with something in there for everyone," Segan said.