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The Bay Area exodus

Remote workers can live anywhere. Will they stay here?

By Zapier Editorial Team · May 26, 2020
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A global pandemic forced Bay Area employers into remote work. Now many employees will keep working from home, even when others return to the office.

Several local tech giants, including Facebook, Square, and Twitter, announced that employees can opt to work from home after the stay-at-home orders end. Will people who can live anywhere decide to stay in the area? We wanted to find out, so we surveyed over 1,100 Bay Area residents.

About Zapier: Zapier helps businesses grow using the power of automation to connect thousands of apps. Founded in 2011, Zapier has always operated as an entirely remote company, and today has 300+ employees working in 30 countries around the world.

Key findings
  • The majority of Bay Area residents are now working from home at least part-time (64 percent).

  • 34 percent of residents say they're likely to move out of San Francisco in the next two years. If given the option to work remotely, this increases to 46 percent.

  • The top reasons cited for wanting to leave are the cost of living (76 percent), housing costs (60 percent), and high population density (32 percent).

Half of residents plan to leave if they can work remotely

Will remote work lead to an exodus
  • 34 percent say they're currently likely to move from San Francisco in the next two years.

  • 46 percent say they're likely to move from San Francisco in the next two years if they're able to work remotely.

  • 55 percent say they're likely to move from San Francisco in the next five years if they're able to work remotely.

People would consider leaving the Bay Area for the following:

What would prompt residents to leave
  • A salary increase of 30 percent or more (53 percent)

  • If the cost of living continues to increase (50 percent)

  • A guaranteed job for my spouse/partner (33 percent)

  • A lump sum of money for moving expenses (32 percent)

  • I would consider leaving as I get older (31 percent)

  • If the majority of my friends and family moved away (25 percent)

Cost tops the list of reasons why people currently want to leave

Why do people want to leave the Bay Area? Here are the most common responses:

  • Cost of living (76 percent)

  • Housing costs (60 percent)

  • Too crowded/population density (32 percent)

  • Traffic (31 percent)

The pandemic isn't driving people away

Most residents are happy with the local pandemic response
  • The majority (58 percent) are happy with the local government's response to the pandemic.

  • Only 13 percent say they want to leave because the pandemic has made living in a city less desirable.

Where do people want to go? LA, Seattle, Portland top list of destinations

Most people want to live in a suburb near an urban area
  • Half (50 percent) would prefer to move to a suburb near an urban area.

  • 27 percent want to relocate to another urban area.

  • 17 percent say they'd prefer a small town.

  • Only 6 percent would choose to move to a rural area.

  • LA (14 percent), Seattle (10 percent), and Portland (9 percent) top the list of cities where Bay Area residents would like to move.

Methodology: Zapier conducted the study for this report in collaboration with Centiment.co. More than 1,100 Bay Area residents were surveyed online in May of 2020. The study’s margin of error is +/- 4 percent at 95 percent confidence.

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