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work from home

The benefits of working from home are manifold — but especially helpful when it comes to your mental state and finances. After all, a commute can be stressful and pricey if you’re guzzling gas while sitting in traffic. What’s more, eating at home is usually cheaper than the standard takeout fare you might find around the office. And even working remotely in general — from your local coffee shop, for instance — can leave you with more time to accomplish your tasks without wasting time in transit to work. But despite its many benefits, the telecommuting revolution has yet to take hold in America: Only 8 million workers, or 5.2% of all employees 16 and older, work from home full-time, according to Census Bureau data. So if you do want to establish yourself as someone who works from home, you need to live in a city with an established work from home culture. Below, we look at a slew of factors to rank the best cities to work from home.

In order to rank the best cities to work from home, we examined data on seven metrics. We looked at the percent of employees working from home, the five-year change in employees working from home, the unemployment rate, the poverty rate, the median home cost as a percent of income, coffee shop density and bar density. Check out our data and methodology below to see where we got our data and how we put it together to create our final rankings.

Key Findings

  • It’s hard to work from home in some cities – For whatever reason, working from home is almost taboo in some cities. For example, in Newark, the last-ranking city in the study, only 1.7% of residents work from home, a figure down 0.3% from 2013. In Baton Rouge, only 2.2% of workers work from home. In other cities, though, more than 10% of employees work from home.
  • Millennial cities did well – Three of the most popular cities for millennials to move to were also top 10 cities to work from home. The cities that overlapped between the two studies were Denver, Seattle and Charlotte.
  • Expensive cities do well – Outside of Plano, every city in our top 10 is fairly expensive and has high rates of people working from home.

work from home

1. Denver, Colorado

It is all well and good while living in a city with affordable housing and good-paying jobs to try to negotiate your way into working from home. But if you live in a city without a working-from-home culture, you may find it hard to arrange that setup for yourself. Denver ranks well because of the popularity of working from home. According to Census Bureau estimates nearly 10% of workers work from home, an increase of 2.6% from 2013. The unemployment rate here is also low, only 3.2%, so securing work where you can telecommute should not be exceptionally difficult in Denver.

2. Gilbert, Arizona

Two Phoenix metro area cities take the second and third spots, with Gilbert just barely beating out Chandler to secure second. Gilbert has a significant number of workers with a zero-minute commute. Specifically, almost 8% of workers work from home. According to the Census Bureau, that figure is also on the rise. From 2013 to 2017, the number of people working from home in Gilbert grew by 1.6%. Jobs here, whether they involve working at home or not, are plentiful and well-paying for the most part. Gilbert ranks in the top three for the unemployment rate and poverty rate.

3. Chandler, Arizona

Chandler looks much like Gilbert from a statistical point of view. Low unemployment rates, along with low poverty rates, are features of working in Chandler. Working from home is also fairly popular. Around 7.7% of all employees worked from home in 2017. Chandler and Gilbert differ mainly in two areas: opportunity and affordability. Chandler is more affordable than Gilbert but offers slightly higher unemployment and poverty rates.

4. San Francisco, California

Working from home can be distracting. When there’s little separating you from Netflix, your productivity can suffer. One good way to avoid this problem is to find a quiet place to work that is open to the public and offers Wi-Fi. Coffee shops or bars are two good examples. San Francisco ranks well, because it has a high density of coffee shops and bars. Specifically, nearly 2% of all establishments in San Francisco are coffee shops and more than 1% are bars. San Francisco is not carried into the top five by coffee shops and bars alone though. In total San Francisco, ranks in the top 20 for five out of the seven metrics.

5. Austin, Texas

Not all occupations are suitable for working from home. Most manual labor jobs certainly are not, and any white-collar occupations requiring face-to-face interaction are probably not suitable either. But jobs like software developers that have independent workflows and allow you to handle meetings over the phone are good candidates to provide a nice work-from-home situation. Austin has a large population of software developers, which may partially explain why nearly 9% of all Austin workers work from home. For that metric, Austin ranks fourth. Working from home has also become more popular in Austin recently, and we may see it become even more popular, making it a great place to end up if you want to establish your career from home. From 2013 to 2017, the percentage of employees working from home grew by 1.7%

6. Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale is the working-from-home capital of America. According to our data, one in eight workers here report working from home. Apart from the large number of telecommuting jobs, Scottsdale also ranked in the top five for unemployment rate and poverty rate. Scottsdale even ranks 16th for housing costs as a percent of income, making it the most affordable city relative to income, in the top 10. But if you are someone who likes to work from home at a coffee shop or bar, Scottsdale may not offer a ton of variety. This city ranked in the bottom half for coffee shop and bar density.

7. (tie) Plano, Texas

When it comes to sheer opportunity for working from home, Plano is up there with the best. This city has an unemployment rate below 3% and a work-from-home rate of 9.1%. This should mean plenty of work-from-home jobs are available to those who want them and should allow people to move around to find their dream work-from-home setup. The rate of working from home seems to be nearing its peak though: The percentage of people working from home grew only 0.5% from 2013 to 2017.

7. (tie) Fremont, California

Fremont has a considerable number of employees working from home. The latest data from the Census Bureau shows that more than 6% of employees here work from home. But this city doesn’t owe its spot in the top 10 to the current number of workers working from home. Rather, Fremont stands out because of the growth in workers working from home. From 2013 to 2017, the percent of workers avoiding any and all commutes rose by nearly 3%, a top-10 rate. Fremont also ranks in the top five for coffee shop density and poverty rate.

9. Seattle, Washington

Seattle has a little bit of everything. More than 7% of employees work from home, a top-20 rate. Seattle also ranks in the top 20 for unemployment rate and poverty rate. It also ranks in the top half for housing costs as a percent of income, coffee shop density and bar density. In fact, Seattle only ranks below average in the growth of employees working from home, and even in that metric, it ranks 53rd.

10. Charlotte, North Carolina

Rounding out our list is the largest city in North Carolina: Charlotte. This city has a large and growing population of non-commuters. According to surveys compiled by the Census Bureau, nearly 8% of the workforce works from home here, a figure that is up 2% from 2013 to 2017. In both of those metrics, Charlotte ranks in the top 10. Including the low poverty rate, Charlotte takes a top-20 spot in three different metrics. Only the dearth of coffee shops keeps Charlotte from a higher ranking.

work from home

Data and Methodology

In order to rank the best cities to work from home, we looked at data for 97 cities. Specifically, we compared them across the following seven factors:

  • Percent working from home. This is the percent of employees who work from home. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Five-year change in percent working from home. This is the five-year percentage point change in the percent of employees working from home. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Unemployment rate. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Poverty rate. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Housing costs as a percent of income. The is full-time earnings for workers divided by the cost for the median home. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Coffee shop density. This is the number of coffee shops divided by the total number of establishments. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2016 Business Patterns Survey.
  • Bar density. This is the number of bars divided by the total number of establishments. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2016 Business Patterns Survey.

To create our final rankings, we first ranked each city in each metric. We then found each city’s average ranking and gave a half weight to bar density and coffee shop density. The city with the best average ranking received a 100. The city with the worst average ranking received a 0.

Tips for Maximizing Your Savings

  • Use the right savings account – Did you know that you can increase your savings account annual percentage yield (APY) immensely? Large banks with a retail footprint like Chase offer very low APYs. By switching to an online-only institution like Ally or Synchrony you can access high-yield savings accounts with APYs in excess of 2%.
  • Ask an expert – Financial mistakes can be expensive. Maybe you bought a home you can’t afford and now have to sell at a loss. Or perhaps you put too much of your money in the wrong investments and need to sell some securities to maintain liquidity during an emergency. Mistakes like that make you miss your financial milestones. Instead of making all the decisions yourself, why not get the opinion of a financial advisor? If you are not sure where to find a financial advisor, check out SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool. It will pair you with up to three local financial advisors who all fit your investing needs.

Questions about the study? Contact us at press@smartasset.com

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/mapodile

Derek Miller, CEPF® Derek Miller is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh where he studied economics. He is passionate about using data to help people make better financial decisions. Derek is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®) and a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. He is a data journalist whose expertise is in finding the stories within the numbers. Derek's writing has been featured on Yahoo, AOL, and Huffington Post. He believes the biggest financial mistake people make is waiting too late to save for retirement and missing out on the wonders of compounding interest. Derek lives in Brooklyn.
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