Executive Summary

The pandemic catalyzed a big shift to work from home and, for many workers, a large increase in how far they live from their employers.

While much of the public conversation is about return-to-office mandates, we find a sustained pattern of worker migration away from the locations of their employers. We reach this conclusion by examining data from Gusto, which provides payroll processing and other services to mostly smaller and mid-sized employers.

The mean distance from employee residence to employer location rose from 10 to 27 miles between 2019 and 2023, and the share of workers living more than 50 miles from their employers jumped more than five-fold, from 0.8% to 5.5%. These developments are especially striking in the Information sector and in Finance & Insurance. They mainly reflect the fact that employees hired since march 2020 live much farther away than other employees.

Looking across age groups, the rise in distance to employer is most pronounced for people in their 30s. Distance to employer also rises steeply with earnings. Thus, the pro-typical employee who lives far away from his or her employer is a high-earning Millennial working in the Information sector or in Finance & Insurance.

Although some business executives continue to push for a return to pre-pandemic working arrangements, it will be hard to bring many employees back onsite five days a week, because they now live much farther away.


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