For millions of people across America, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has played a crucial role in making major life decisions, including relocation. In the last two years, we could see mortgage rates falling to record lows as more people were being able to work from virtually anywhere and thus choose where they would want to live.
But, the impact of the pandemic has also created uncertainty. Fewer houses are on the market now than a year ago, and more homeowners are opting to refinance their current properties. In analyzing how the pandemic has and will continue to affect people’s choices regarding house purchases, home sales, and relocation, job security is also an important element to examine. A person’s willingness to make what could be the biggest purchase of their lives could be influenced by their worries about their job security.
In this article, we use our consumer moving data to discuss and dissect the moving trends of 2022. From a recruitment and employee retention standpoint, this data and its analysis provide valuable insight into where your current and future employees may want to live. However, the data may also aid in subsequent decision-making regarding your in-person/remote mix, office locations, and relocation as an incentive for top talent.
As the increase in remote work continues to flatten the labor market, making more companies able to recruit the same employee regardless of their location, companies need to consider how they can attract and retain talented candidates. Location choice and relocation benefits are one way to do that, especially if companies think creatively to truly meet the moment.
2020 vs. 2019: How Many People Moved From Specific Cities?
While some may believe that the widespread use of lockdowns and “shelter in place” orders prevented most people from relocating in 2020, this was not the case. Moving, like most other industries, has suffered the effects of the epidemic, but not to the extent one may have imagined. In some locations, such as larger cities, the relocation rate rose in 2020 compared to 2019.
Millions of workers have benefited from the increase in remote work made possible by COVID-19, and the resulting trend has been quite obvious. Individuals and families were abandoning cities for the suburbs and rural areas. More space and a lower cost of living were suddenly within reach for many remote employees who were previously tied to cities due to their proximity to work.
Some people, however, thought these relocations might only be temporary, at least in the case of more severely affected places like San Francisco and New York. Nevertheless, since population density and closeness to others proved to be a driving force in the spread of COVID-19, it is understandable that crowded city living may have lost its appeal and even proven too unsafe for some.
However, not everyone who relocated in 2020 did so to escape the city. Many people moved from one urban area to another, sometimes to locations with similar population densities. During the lockdowns, single adults were also fleeing New York City and the surrounding area to move home with families. In other cases, many school closures forced college students to leave and return home to finish their classes online.
Looking Ahead: Attitudes About Moving
Regarding future relocation plans, people have revealed that they are evenly divided on whether or not the pandemic will drive them to stay or go. A recent study has shown that 25% of respondents have stated that concerns regarding the pandemic might prompt a future move, while another 25% reported that due to the epidemic, they do not foresee moving in the near future.
The pandemic has affected everyone differently depending on their employment, living, and family circumstances. As a result, people’s attitudes toward relocation and other key life decisions have shifted. The following were the main reasons for relocating given by the 20% of survey respondents:
- Not having enough indoor space
- The need for a new building
- A desire for more outdoor space
- The demand for more affordable housing
- Wanting to get families back together
Space is clearly a major concern for those who moved due to the pandemic. Many families discovered that their existing living space was just insufficient to handle two adults working from home, let alone having children at home at the same time.
This could explain why individuals aged 24-55, the peak workforce years, have the greatest potential to make another COVID-related shift in the near future.
Effects of COVID-19 on the Moving Industry
Unsurprisingly, many working in the moving industry are worried about the sector’s financial stability. From a risk management perspective, this makes sense, especially given that 74% of workers in the moving industry had experienced downsizing in the past 12 months.
Nevertheless, relocations continued during this time. In fact, they have occasionally been triggered by the same downsizing that is causing alarm in the moving industry.
This economic downturn has a different root cause than the Financial Crisis of 2008. The world’s economy has never been hit harder by what seems like an uncontrollable virus. The way we live may never be the same because of this pandemic. This means that our current information can only serve as a rough prediction of what may happen in the future.
We know the rising popularity of remote work will have a distinct impact on the relocation market, but it is difficult to foresee exactly how that will play out. The information we have is not quite as gloomy as it might seem at first glance. According to one survey, 42% of respondents said they do not intend to self-move again, while 91% of respondents stated that they felt capable and prepared to move again. This is encouraging news for professional movers, as it suggests that consumers will continue to seek out the services of these organizations in the not-too-distant future and that demand may even grow as we watch the current iteration of COVID unfold.
As a result, it’s more crucial than ever that businesses work with reliable relocation services to give themselves and their relocating employees an advantage in these uncertain times. Moreover, as a nation, we may feel an even more severe lack of truckers and consequent capacity as we battle this virus, shutdowns, limits, and downsizing. It is possible to have a smooth relocation if adequate preparation is made and good working connections are established with relocation companies.
Information on Relocations, Both COVID-Related and Otherwise
This section examines information about how people, regardless of their motivation for moving, plan and organize for the transition (COVID or other reasons).
1. Finding a Reliable Moving Company is Essential
When asked how long it took to decide on a moving company, 72% of respondents claimed it was more than six months before their actual move date.
Only 18% of respondents stated that it took them a few weeks or a month to choose a moving service ahead of their move date.
2. Moving is Even More Stressful for Older Adults
About half of the respondents (those 55 and under) found relocation to be one of the “most traumatic” occurrences they had ever experienced. While already high, the figures grew even higher with increasing age. 66% of those responding who were 56 or older cited relocation as one of the “most stressful” life events they had experienced.
Moving outranked everything else regarding the stress it causes for both age groups. For this reason, businesses that offer relocation packages to prospective employees should make the relocation process as painless as possible for everyone involved. The safest and most stress-free relocation of employees can be achieved by providing a comprehensive relocation package.
Safe Relocation During COVID-19
The data presented above demonstrate that even under ideal conditions, moving is a stressful experience. Understandably, people who had to relocate during the pandemic had increased stress.
However, our findings suggest that people are still on the move despite the pandemic. Instead, we see a gradual shift in people’s shifting patterns, motivations for relocation, and overall mobility. It remains to be seen how long-lasting these changes will be. This trend may eventually become the standard in the moving industry.
Regardless of whether current trends will change or persist, the most important thing to focus on is identifying the best practices for the safest possible move during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some helpful tips to share with your relocating employees:
1. Social Distancing is Still Important
Social distancing, handwashing, and masking will still be important despite COVID-19 vaccinations. There are new, stronger virus strains, no vaccine for children, and the vaccine rollout is still working out its kinks. Every mover must take maximum precautions to avoid infection. Ensure your relocating employees know how to protect themselves and their families from infection.
2. COVID-Related Regulations and Requirements Vary by State & Municipality
Regional and interstate movers must stay informed on COVID requirements and updates in their new destination. Encourage your relocating personnel to stay informed and follow their new locale’s guidelines.
Flexibility matters too. If infection rates at the destination rise unexpectedly, a move may need to be delayed or rescheduled.
Relocating employees and companies should plan for COVID-19 delays and disruptions.
3. Timing is Crucial
Many Americans move to care for a loved one or be closer to the family during the lockdown, yet these same incentives may postpone a move. If COVID-19 infection rates grow around their move date, those at higher risk may choose to defer a transfer.
Encourage your employees to choose the safest transportation options for themselves and any high-risk members of their moving party. Some modes of transport, such as air, bus, train, taxi, and ridesharing, may increase exposure.
4. Can You Do Without a Moving Company?
That depends on who you ask. What constitutes an essential service varies from region to region, with that decision being made at the state and local levels. Depending on location, the reasoning behind a move may or may not impact how the rules and regulations apply. Informing your relocating employees of this will help them prepare for the relocation.
It’s preferable to have some wiggle room in your moving dates, if at all possible, in case an unexpected lockdown or other mitigating circumstances impacts the viability of the relocation. The employer and the relocating employee should work out this beforehand to avoid major work disruptions.
5. Moving plans may be affected by COVID-19
Everything from stopping for a bite to eat to the number of movers available for packing and unpacking may be different or complicated by COVID regulations. That is why it is critical for anyone considering a move to have backup plans. As we have seen many times, restrictions or disruptions might happen at any time. So, while everything may appear manageable in the run-up to a move, things may shift during relocation. This is another reason why hiring a professional, trustworthy moving company is critical. Experienced movers are better prepared to respond to last-minute changes and are well-trained to aim for a customer-centric solution wherever possible.
The Latest Sanitation and Safety Procedures
Finding the right moving company for your firm or transferring employees is more important than ever. When it comes to safety, a moving company that takes the risk of COVID seriously is the one you should be looking for. When choosing a moving company, look for the following safety features:
- Trucks and moving equipment are disinfected before and after use
- Movers are masked and gloved
- Movers are equipped with all available PP
- During the move, ventilation, hand washing, and disinfection of surfaces are prioritized
- The moving company regularly monitors workers’ health to ensure no one is sick at work
- The moving company provides “no contact” quotes, moves, and packing/unpacking services exclusively
- The moving company knows and follows COVID protocols at the destination
- Additional services are offered, including post-move COVID clean-up, for increased safety.
Partnering with an established relocation partner guarantees that the moving companies tasked with transporting your talent adhere to the recommended sanitizing, social distancing, and other measures for a safe and healthy moving experience, alleviating concerns about virus spread.
COVID has had and will continue to significantly impact the mobility of people in the US. To provide safe and timely moving services on demand, the moving industry is making every effort to accommodate customer safety requests and special needs.
We think employee relocation, whether traditional or delocation, will continue to be a valuable recruiting tool for companies to attract top talent. This is a place to watch and one that companies must respond to stay competitive. In a post-COVID world, a trusted relocation partner can greatly improve the quality, predictability, and cost-effectiveness of a well-run employee relocation program.