The best (and worst) cities for remote workers

NomadList uses crowdsourced data to show which cities in the U.S. and the world are the best - and worst - for remote workers

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Remote working has its benefits

Image credit: flickr/Logan Ingalls (license)

Remote working is often great for those whose employers allow them to do it. Obvious benefits are the time saved not commuting, the ability to spend more time with your family and, of course, getting to live just about wherever you want. But, if you have the freedom to move to (almost) anywhere in the world, the choice of a remote working location can actually be a tough one. Luckily, for those facing that decision, there are some new tools and data available to help you choose the best city from which to log into work.

First off there’s NomadList, created by Pieter Levels, which ranks cities for remote working using crowdsourced data. Anyone can add data for his or her city using a Google spreadsheet, from which the site generates a NomadScore which is weighted heavily towards the monthly cost of living, Internet speed, weather and safety. Aside from the NomadScore, the site lets you sort cities based on cost of living, temperature and Internet speed. You can also get more details on each city, including breakdowns on the cost of living (e.g., cost of rent, meals, coworking space), WiFi availability and quality of nightlife.

At the time of this writing, the top five cities in the world for remote working, based on their NomadScores, are:

  • 1. Chiang Mai, Thailand

  • 2. Sofia, Bulgaria

  • 3. Taipei, Taiwan

  • 4. Bangkok, Thailand

  • 5. Kosice, Slovakia

Currently, the top ranked U.S. location for remote working is Puerto Rico (it’s not broken down by city). Here are the top 5 U.S. locations for remote working based on their NomadScores:

  • 1. Puerto Rico

  • 2. Las Vegas, NV

  • 3. Orlando, FL

  • 4. Detroit, MI

  • 5. Park City, UT

The U.S. cities with the lowest NomadScores (out of the 17 U.S. cities listed) are:

  • 13. New York, NY

  • 14. San Francisco, CA

  • 15. Austin, TX

  • 16. Raleigh, NC

  • 17. Omaha, NE

As the site indicates, the NomadScore is heavily driven by the monthly cost of living; the higher the cost, the lower the score, generally. If cost of living is less important to you, though, than, say, Internet speed, then you may want to choose Austin, which is the only U.S. city on the list to offer speeds of 50 MBPS.

The site doesn’t indicate how many responses these data are based on, but the numbers and rankings are continuing to change as more people share their data.

But wait - before you make plans to move to, say, Las Vegas or Detroit, there are some other recent city data that you may want to review. Economists from Harvard and the University of British Columbia recently looked at the differences in levels of happiness as reported by residents of cities across the United States. Their results are available in a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) titled “Unhappy Cities.”

The authors used Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey data collected from 300,000 people in 367 metropolitan areas. Each year from from 2005 through 2009 participants were asked to report their general satisfaction with life, along with a number of demographic variables. The researchers then came up with a happiness score for each city, after controlling for a number of things that could affect happiness like age, race, number of children, education and marital status. 

While they didn’t publish the happiness rankings for all 367 metro areas, the researchers did publish them for a sample of cities, some of which appear on the NomadList. Interestingly, the happiness scores were often at odds with a city’s NomadList ranking. For example, Las Vegas and Detroit, which ranked #2 and #4, respectively on the NomadList’s list of U.S. cities, ranked #301 and #328, respectively, on the NBER’s happiness list. On the other hand, Raleigh, NC, which ranked low on the NomadList (#16 of 17 U.S. cities), ranked highly for happiness (#31). San Francisco ranked relatively low on both lists (#14 among U.S. cities on NomadList, #242 in happiness).

While these two data sets are somewhat contradictory, one thing seems clear: remote workers should probably avoid San Francisco. Good luck with your choice!

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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