Work vs. Wanderlust: The 5 Best Cities for Remote Tech Workers

tech workers

With remote working, work and travel goals are no longer a trade-off. Here are the top cities for your new home base as a tech worker.

2020 made it impossible to talk about remote working. The months after the onset of the pandemic made it clear that by switching lanes to remote working almost overnight, the future of work itself changed.

A year on, the numbers are telling. In a Gartner survey of business leaders, 47% of respondents indicated that they aimed to let employees work remotely full time. Further, over 40% were up for flexible work. Remote job postings and applications have grown by 2.28 times globally, according to LinkedIn data.

But that’s not to say that remote working is for everyone. A study by the World Economic Forum points out that remote working especially suits highly skilled and educated workers in certain occupations. For instance, analysts or coders could work remotely three to five days a week, and still be as effective as they would be at an office.

For tech workers not required to be onsite, remote working changes things up a bit. Yes, the burnout is real, and so is the struggle to maintain a work-life balance. But for those staying put in a city only because their job demands them to, remote working may be the way out.

Top 5 cities for tech workers

Moving to a new city can be daunting, especially when little is known about the city. Here’s some of the homework already done to make that choice easier.

The list considers all things tech that one would expect in a city, such as startup ecosystems, digital nomad lifetech advancement, and city’s tech industry itself. It also covers basic city indicators, such as costs and insurance, and quality of life. (Data sourced from Startup Genome, RS, Savills and Techopedia.)

San Francisco, U.S.

When it comes to Silicon Valley, love it or hate it, but you can’t replace it. San Francisco emerges as a clear winner on account of its sturdy startup ecosystem. It has retained the top spot on Startup Genome’s Top 30 global startup ecosystemssince 2012, when the report was first published. From value creation and exits, to depth of talent and capital, the city remains a frontrunner in the startup space.

For these reasons, San Francisco’s reputation as a tech megacity also helps to put it on the top spot on this list—it makes for a conducive business environment at scale for tech.

Outside of Silicon Valley’s benefits, however, San Francisco has little else going for it. Its performance across lifestyle indicators such as air quality and standard of living is mediocre. It is also one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. to live in, especially in terms of real-estate.

Seattle, U.S.

Rather than doing one thing the best, Seattle does many things well enough. It may not have the ultimate startup scene of the lot, or the most conducive digital nomad lifestyle, or even the best air quality. But it does well enough on these parameters for the city to be a worthy top contender for your next move. This is especially so as Seattle is a national centre for STEM jobs in the U.S., and is home to tech heavyweights Microsoft and Amazon.

One of the highlights of living in Seattle is the pay scale. It offers one of the best average tech salaries, in addition to the U.S.’s relatively lower gender wage gap. It also debuted as Startup Genome’s top 10 startup ecosystems last year, joining the likes of Shanghai and Stockholm.

For remote workers keen to work out of a co-working space, Seattle offers competitive costs, although work essentials such as laptops or headphones may be on the pricier side.

Toronto, Canada

Canada has emerged as a top destination for immigrants. It became the most attractive region for foreign workers to move to amidst the pandemic. With the Canadian government’s commitment to increase immigration as a means to boost its economic recovery, the country (and its financial and business capital Toronto) is likely to further gain the international worker’s favor.

While its startup ecosystem leans more towards the ‘emerging’ side, its tech industry is the second largest cluster of its kind in North America. Its tech talent labor pool has grown by 36.5% over the past five years, higher than that of even San Francisco.

Toronto’s best offer for workers is its quality of living and its business-friendly environment. Co-working spaces and broadband will cost remote workers lesser, although they’ll have to save quite a bit for a MacBook Pro.

Boston, U.S.

Boston’s startup ecosystem has stood the test of time. Even as far back as 1998, the city brought in US$900 million in VC funding, which was $100 more than New York City, and over four times that of Seattle or London. In 2020, Boston’s VC funding inflow stood at $12.83 billion in Q3 alone.

Tech workers in the city can also expect to be paid decently well in Boston, and have a quality of life akin to that of Melbourne or Amsterdam. High-end purchases such as a laptop or trainers weigh in on the more expensive end, however.

Bonus points for its proximity to Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology for workers interested in part-time education.

Austin, U.S.

True to its rodeo nature, Austin boasts a startup ecosystem that is buzzing with investor activity, promises a growth market, and is amongst the top 20 global ecosystems for tech talent. Austin brings lifestyle and tech together, offering superior quality of life in addition to being a tech hub in the U.S.

Austin’s growing tech ecosystem has earned it the nickname Silicon Hills, a title further reinforced with tech talent from the San Francisco Bay Area moving en masse to the city amidst the rise of remote working. And it’s not just the people that are making the shift.

Tech giants Oracle, Apple and Tesla have all made their moves, either by announcing a relocation, or a new production site in Austin. This movement of talent and tech, combined with affordable co-working, makes Austin a relatively less expensive version of the Bay Area, and a sweet spot for remote tech workers. They’ll have to head back to San Francisco for a cheaper vegan burger, however.

While these five cities have emerged top contenders for tech workers, each city adds its own unique flavor to remote working culture. It’s up to one’s personal preference to which city they’d like to move.

It can be any of these five, or several other thriving cities, such as New York, which has the best pizza and the next best startup ecosystem in the world, or Singapore, a powerhouse of progress in tech and innovation. With boundaries no bar, it’s all about finding the right city, and taking the plunge into a complete change of space and lifestyle.

Header image courtesy of master1305 on Freepik


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