Best and Worst U.S. Cities for Remote Workers

Mom working from home and keeping an eye on her kids

Telecommuting was once a luxury — now it’s the norm, and quite possibly the future. As of June 2020, a whopping 42% of the U.S. labor force was working from home, up from just 8.2% in February. 

The transition to working remotely has been so huge and fast that it’s created a whole new sector of the labor force — dubbed the “working-from-home economy” — a trend researchers predict will outlast the pandemic. 

For many workers, a remote arrangement means greater flexibility in location. But not every city is cut out for telecommuting success. 

So what’s the best city to work a remote job? To find out, LawnStarter compared the 150 biggest U.S. cities across 15 key factors, such as remote job opportunities, internet speed, and the cost of renting a home office.

Dive in to the data to find the perfect city for a telecommuting lifestyle. (We’ve already ordered our standing treadmill desk.)

Table of Contents

  1. Key Takeaways
  2. Ask the Experts
  3. Methodology
OVERALL RANKCityOverall ScoreOpportunity and Earning Potential RankWork Environment RankConnectivity and Convenience RankCosts Rank
1McKinney, TX72.2525229
2Frisco, TX71.1061172
3Plano, TX64.231335528
4Irving, TX64.111924292
5Garland, TX60.7129442612
6Yonkers, NY60.5313245110
7Austin, TX60.306221854
8Fort Worth, TX59.8378461017
9Dallas, TX59.0990261640
10Orlando, FL58.584394623
11Jersey City, NJ58.4921424122
12Fayetteville, NC58.0114167284
13Tampa, FL57.8851593325
14Arlington, TX57.834693357
15Overland Park, KS57.683345894
16Pittsburgh, PA57.4688292064
17Port St. Lucie, FL57.4264604022
18Raleigh, NC57.4066176543
19Peoria, AZ57.361275399
20Reno, NV57.2776413730
21Fort Lauderdale, FL57.1151053851
22Knoxville, TN56.85143106195
23San Antonio, TX56.661161021314
24Vancouver, WA56.39421012942
25Gilbert, AZ56.2210239485
26Charlotte, NC56.1479492548
27Atlanta, GA55.7050113998
28Miami, FL55.6669431784
29Houston, TX55.59117565919
30Aurora, CO54.8739356179
31Chesapeake, VA54.7844334986
32Huntsville, AL54.721072513321
33Cincinnati, OH54.70119706220
34Denver, CO54.6649204895
35Tulsa, OK54.50128121468
36Chicago, IL54.3785541492
37Henderson, NV54.2941278282
38Lubbock, TX54.2312492973
39Fort Wayne, IN53.73125501328
40El Paso, TX53.7313197856
41Wichita, KS53.69114426355
42Newport News, VA53.6381517947
43Philadelphia, PA53.421201141556
44Virginia Beach, VA53.4257348880
45Salt Lake City, UT53.3056398777
46Corpus Christi, TX53.251131006915
47Hialeah, FL52.99188611052
48Grand Rapids, MI52.991121263629
49Durham, NC52.97527310536
50Oklahoma City, OK52.95109914741
51Columbus, OH52.901021094138
52Shreveport, LA52.771391381245
53Minneapolis, MN52.75674027102
54Madison, WI52.7273558366
55Amarillo, TX52.661291421401
56Seattle, WA52.5928677115
57Tempe, AZ52.59262213891
58Lincoln, NE52.291013611763
59St. Louis, MO52.251051035239
60Cleveland, OH52.18149816633
61Worcester, MA52.08821813776
62Huntington Beach, CA51.7581218139
63Jacksonville, FL51.669511110718
64Columbus, GA51.561338213411
65St. Paul, MN51.55588822100
66Chandler, AZ51.54234812890
67Portland, OR51.51611551116
68Grand Prairie, TX51.4015578128
69St. Petersburg, FL51.34369611950
70Milwaukee, WI51.281381075446
71Chattanooga, TN51.211327512032
72Greensboro, NC51.07122959337
73Akron, OH50.971261018635
74Aurora, IL50.89471279144
75Anaheim, CA50.83141346131
76Rochester, NY50.82148837449
77Sioux Falls, SD50.819411710627
78Scottsdale, AZ50.551616142106
79Memphis, TN50.481441447516
80Mobile, AL50.471359911826
81Washington, DC50.3717844136
82Buffalo, NY50.221406310467
83Laredo, TX50.1910814710310
84Omaha, NE50.1991579589
85Richmond, VA49.88986812669
86Colorado Springs, CO49.87724713975
87Cape Coral, FL49.79597912373
88Baton Rouge, LA49.791301137259
89Baltimore, MD49.731031205078
90Birmingham, AL49.671461397034
91Detroit, MI49.1614514312113
92Tacoma, WA49.14388712288
93Rancho Cucamonga, CA49.07278534118
94Irvine, CA49.029964138
95Las Vegas, NV49.028911210960
96Spokane, WA48.9511510814124
97San Diego, CA48.83483121133
98Little Rock, AR48.761067813170
99Phoenix, AZ48.6883989283
100Albuquerque, NM48.581108913657
101Newark, NJ48.4837690125
102Kansas City, MO48.349911810271
103Des Moines, IA48.241046513087
104Norfolk, VA48.14847714561
105Toledo, OH48.1115014011531
106Los Angeles, CA47.8075375140
107Louisville, KY47.6111111632107
108Montgomery, AL47.4612113111662
109Long Beach, CA47.44316942126
110Sacramento, CA47.106812331112
111Glendale, AZ46.99358414874
112Winston-Salem, NC46.831371157196
113Providence, RI46.73978067109
114Santa Clarita, CA46.65215298123
115Mesa, AZ46.62545315058
116New Orleans, LA46.101361348093
117Glendale, CA45.97712430135
118Nashville, TN45.778014523114
119San Jose, CA45.55202856141
120Salem, OR45.348611912497
121Tallahassee, FL45.3012713514653
122Fremont, CA45.02438100144
123Fontana, CA44.9440136125101
124Chula Vista, CA44.723058114130
125San Francisco, CA44.7111199150
126Modesto, CA44.688712573111
127Oakland, CA44.23244543143
128Stockton, CA44.139614676103
129Fresno, CA43.75118130101105
130Brownsville, TX43.5314713714765
131New York, NY43.4274663147
132Tucson, AZ43.3114210414981
133Santa Ana, CA43.14349081132
134Indianapolis, IN43.0912314884104
135Riverside, CA42.946012296121
136Santa Rosa, CA42.84636268137
137Augusta, GA42.01134129135108
138Oceanside, CA41.994561144127
139Boise, ID41.8977133108117
140North Las Vegas, NV41.856511099129
141Boston, MA41.79377157142
142Oxnard, CA41.6955132112120
143San Bernardino, CA41.609314989113
144Elk Grove, CA41.18223060148
145Ontario, CA41.1532747149
146Lexington, KY40.64100128127119
147Anchorage, AK40.245364143134
148Bakersfield, CA38.1192150113124
149Moreno Valley, CA38.017014111145
150Honolulu, HI35.067172111146
Infographic showing the best and worst cities for remote workers. Categories include highest/lowest cost of living, most/least home office and coworking space, etc.

Key Takeaways

Don’t Mess with Texas

With a whopping eight of our top 10 cities, the Lonestar State dominates our ranking. (Full disclosure: LawnStarter is headquartered in Austin, but we promise that our Texan pride didn’t influence the results here.)

Texas cities — seven of them in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex — earned many of the highest scores in the Work Environment and Connectivity categories while also getting decent scores in Costs and Opportunities.

In other words, Texas is a well-rounded place for remote work, which comes as no surprise, considering it’s one of the fastest-growing states in the nation.

Meet Me in the Middle

Mid-sized cities are safe bets for remote workers. Larger cities tend to falter when it comes to cost of living, workplace safety, and rental prices. And smaller cities can’t compete on metrics like coworking spaces, food delivery, or job opportunities.

Not too hot and not too cold, mid-sized cities like Fayetteville, North Carolina; Orlando, Florida; and Reno, Nevada, are just right.

Rockin’ the ’Burbs

Suburbs ranked well on our list — and for good reason. They boast some of the benefits and accessibility of major cities but at cheaper prices. Not feeling Kansas City, Missouri, income taxes? Try Overland Park, Kansas.

Want to escape those sky-high New York City prices? Head on over to Yonkers. Suburbs are a great choice for that new, remote-work lifestyle that won’t break the bank.

Not All that Glitters Is Gold

One location to avoid is California. The Golden State consistently finds itself at the bottom of our ranking, even California’s mid-sized cities like Santa Ana or suburbs like Moreno Valley.

High on costs and low on good workplace factors like safety or available personal space, California may be better for a vacation than a telecommuting life.

Ask The Experts

Working remotely has become normal for many Americans in recent months, but how can we better cope with the workaday world while juggling keeping an eye on our kids and remembering to take breaks and not work long into the night?

We asked the experts for answers to these questions:

  • What less obvious advantages are there, if any, to working remotely?
  • Beyond traditional benefits — insurance coverage, paid time off, retirement contribution matches — that many employers offer, what non-traditional perks should companies consider giving workers in light of the challenges of working remotely?
  • As companies move away from working in traditional offices to remote environments, local economies are likely to be impacted by lower tax revenues from declining commercial real estate and public transit. Where should cities look to replace the lost revenue in both the short and long terms?
  • What are the three most effective ways for remote workers to stay creative?
  • Remote work can sometimes heighten feelings of isolation and stress. How can remote workers most effectively manage their mental health during the pandemic?
  • There are many sources offering advice on how to effectively work remotely. What’s the best way to filter “good” advice and tune out the noise?
  • If you could live anywhere as a remote worker, where would you live and why? And why not be a digital nomad instead of being tied to one location? Beach town in winter, Denver or Maine in summer, for example. Maybe use our best cities for remote workers as a bucket list spending six months in various locations.
M. Gloria González Mora​les, PhD

Associate Professor, Division of Behavioral & Organizational Sciences, Claremont Graduate University

Raffaella Sadun

Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

Keaton Fletcher

Assistant Professor, Georgia Tech, School of Psychology

Katerina Bezrukova, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Organization and Human Resources Department, University at Buffalo, School of Management

Peter Cappelli

George W. Taylor Professor of Management, Director – Center for Human Resources, The Wharton School, and Professor of Education, University of Pennsylvania

Methodology

To design our ranking of 2020’s Best Cities for Remote Workers, LawnStarter first determined four key categories of factors that are necessary for telework success, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Those categories include Opportunity and Earning Potential; Work Environment; Connectivity and Convenience; and Costs.

We then identified 15 metrics related to the four categories using the most recently available data. The categories and their corresponding metrics are listed below with the score we assigned to each. For our sample, we chose the 150 most populated U.S. cities, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

We then added up the scores across all categories for each of the 150 biggest U.S. cities to arrive at the final ranking, which is based on their overall scores, the highest being 100. The city with the highest score ranked No. 1, or “best,” while the city with the lowest score ranked No. 150, or “worst.”

1. Opportunity and Earning Potential (Total Points: 15)

  • Remote Job Opportunities: 10 Points
    Note: Measures number of remote job opportunities per total population in labor force
  • Median Household Income: 5 Points

2. Work Environment (Total Points: 17)

  • Availability of Personal Workspace: 7 Points
    Note: Measures median home square footage per average number of persons in a household
  • Availability of Coworking Spaces: 5 Points
    Note: Measures number of shared office spaces
  • Workplace Safety: 5  Points
    Note: Measures city’s position in LawnStarter’s “Best and Worst U.S. Cities to Be Stuck at Home” ranking

3. Connectivity and Convenience (Total Points: 27)

  • Internet Accessibility: 5 Points
    Note: Measures number of internet providers
  • Average Internet Speed: 10 Points
  • Broadband Coverage: 7 Points
  • Access to Food Delivery: 5 Points
    Note: Measures number of food delivery apps

4. Costs (Total Points: 41)

  • Cost-of-Living Index: 7 Points
  • Home Office Rent: 7 Points
    Note: Measures median home rental price per square foot as a proxy for “home office rental price”
  • Housing: 7 Points
    Note: Measures median home price per square foot as a proxy for “housing costs”
  • Utilities: 5 Points
    Note: Measures cost of basic utilities, such as water, electricity, garbage, heating and cooling
  • Internet: 10 Points
    Note: Measures cost for 60 Mbps or more, unlimited data, cable/ADSL
  • Income Tax: 5 Points

Sources: AreaVibes, Beyond Menu, BroadbandNow, Caviar, Delivery.com, DoorDash, Foodie Call, GrubHub, Homes.com, Indeed, LawnStarter, Numbeo, Postmates, Tax Foundation, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau, UberEATS, Yelp and Zillow

Main photo credit: Brenda Ryan / LawnStarter

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Staff Writer