COVID-19’s “reboot” of the US tech workforce

Budget cuts, layoffs, and furloughs prompt 81% of tech talent living near top innovation hubs to look for more affordable areas, a new report finds.

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It’s clear that the COVID-19 crisis had a quick and challenging impact on IT departments throughout the US, as tech staff were heavily relied upon to pivot and transition office staff, devices, and software to employees’ homes so they could work remotely. But a new report from .Tech Domains, .Tech Workforce Reboot Report examined how the pandemic has further affected tech talent and is putting pressure on them to change their lifestyle and even where they live, which highlights new challenges for employers as they manage an increasingly distributed workforce. 

According to the report, 81% of tech talent are looking for a more affordable way of life, to suit their—and their families’—specific needs and preferences, even if it means leaving a location considered one of the US top tech hubs. More than half (61%) of tech workers report working in a fully remote environment.

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And respondents are not so keen to leave their current situation, with only 20% saying that once there’s a vaccine for COVID-19, their ideal work scenario is a 100% return to the office. The report cites a projection from the Harvard Business School that when the pandemic is considered over, one-in-six workers will continue working from home or “co-working at least twice a week.” In fact, the report added that “it’s likely that what many have been calling the remote work experiment may become a permanent reality for the tech sector.”


For extra money, 74% of full-time tech workers reported they’re now more likely to consider freelance work since the pandemic began, while 84% of millennial full-time tech workers are considering freelancing since COVID-19’s onset.  And they’re also taking the full brunt of the impact. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis reported 4.8 million millennials lost work since the coronavirus-triggered recession. 

Millennials in the tech industry were about 15% more likely than previous generations to have “seriously considered” transitioning to a less pricey neighborhood. A recent TD Ameritrade survey found that 39% of millennials on the younger end of the generation are planning or already have moved back in with their parents, as they battle the economic downturn. Still, in the realm of glass half-full, remote work offers them the flexibility to take on full time or freelance jobs, no matter where they’re located.


Freelance job openings increased more than 25% during the April to June quarter of 2020, compared to the first three months of the year. Respondents who described themselves as “completely remote” are 12% “much more likely” to consider a freelance or project-based work, yet of those working a hybrid schedule, 51% said they’re “much more likely” to consider freelance or project-based work.

More than 500 US-based tech workers in IT, software development, internet and hardware who live in or near US top tech hubs—identified as including the Bay Area, Seattle, New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Austin—said COVID-19 has put pressure on them to consider moving to a more affordable areas.

“While it makes sense given the flexibility remote work provides, it was somewhat surprising to see just how significant the percentages were when it comes to tech workers who are considering or already have plans to move away from the U.S.’s biggest innovation hubs,” said Suman Das, brand director .Tech Domains. 

“Similarly, when it comes to freelancing,” Das said, “it’s surprising to see just how many tech workers are more likely to take on freelance work since the onset of COVID-19. Aside from the direct impact these things will have on the way tech talent works and lives, these findings also speak to the challenges facing employers when it comes to managing a distributed workforce.” 

Tips to kickstart a freelance career

  1. Expand your digital resume—build a strong file, consider upskilling
  2. Beware of the flexibility paradox—understand you need to develop a feasible work-life balance
  3. Understand the business side—i.e. Setting aside tax money

Tech talent are among the most remote-ready work factions in the world. The COVID-19 crisis brought the viability and benefits of telecommuting to the forefront. Das said: “For workers, I think the report reinforces the fact that there is inherent flexibility in their roles that they can take advantage of it to meet their individual needs and preferences. And for the companies employing this talent, I think the report offers an insightful view into the situations this cohort is facing and hopefully helps them build environments that are conducive to attracting and retaining this talent.”

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