Millennials, High-Earners Moved Away From Office During Work From Home

Estimated read time 5 min read
  • Data shows workers are living further from the office than they did pre-pandemic.
  • The rise in distance is driven by millennials, who made major life changes during the pandemic.
  • Remote work remains largely reserved for higher earners, who live further from the office.

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The hottest post-2020 office trend is living nowhere near your office.

Even after companies tried to bring workers back in person, many resisted the call to return to their cubicles. That’s led to some firms accepting the hybrid future of work.

And now, new data might show why so many workers were reluctant to return: Their commutes are probably a whole lot longer. Data compiled by Stanford, WFH Research, and Gusto economists shows that the share of workers living more than 50 miles away from their offices increased by over five-fold from 2019 to 2023.

Liz Wilke, principal economist at Gusto, said that despite a common perception of remote workers staying with the same employer — albeit remotely, and moving further away from their old offices — many just saw their options for where they could work expand.

“The talent markets for employers and workers are getting much bigger, particularly for these high-earning people in really remote and high-tech industries who are in their thirties and who really value this kind of flexibility,” Wilke said.

Gusto analyzed proprietary data on a panel of 5,800 firms, pulled from more than 300,000 predominantly small and midsized businesses using Gusto for payroll between 2018 and 2023.

In 2019, employees’ median distance from their offices was 10 miles. By 2023, that rose to 27 miles. Mean distance has steadily increased since 2020, though it has flattened out slightly in 2023. It indicates how remote work quite literally reshaped the working world — and where workers are.

The shift away from offices was, as BI previously reported, driven by millennials. The new analysis finds that workers age 30 to 34 live the furthest away from their workplaces, clocking in at a mean of 30.75 miles away.

The distance to work has risen 2.8 times among those ages 30 to 34 — or from 11 to 31 miles — while it’s increased 2.9 times for 35 to 39-year-olds. Meanwhile, Gen Zers, Gen Xers, and boomers — all of whom are more likely than their millennial colleagues to crave at least some in-person face time — live the closest to the office.

Chalk that up to different life stages. Millennials are in their prime years of purchasing homes and starting families. Many parents of young children left cities completely during the pandemic.

“The thirties, for lots of workers, are the time when they both feel more established professionally, and they really start to have lives that benefit a lot from the kind of flexibility to choose where they work,” Wilke said.

This growth in distance has been driven primarily by the information, professional services, and finance and insurance sectors. New hires in the information sector live on average 150 miles away from their workplace, while this is nearly 120 miles for finance and insurance. Women were also slightly more likely to move farther from their employer’s location.

Workers hired post-March 2020 live further from their jobs, reporting in 2023 that they lived on average 35 miles from their employer, well above the 16-mile commute among those hired before the pandemic.

At the start of the pandemic, many companies hired workers from across the country, many of whom remain remote. Some workers who moved away from their offices during the pandemic have previously told BI that they have quit their jobs when asked to return to the office, while others super-commute hundreds of miles to maintain their jobs.

Still, remote jobs are becoming more of a rarity on hiring platforms. Karin Kimbrough, chief economist at LinkedIn, said at an NYU Stern Economic Outlook Forum in February that only about 10% of roles listed on LinkedIn are remote, though “job seekers overwhelmingly apply to remote roles.”

Remote work is still largely reserved for higher earners, though. In December 2023, the distance for those making more than $250,000 a year increased from 12 miles in 2018 to 42 miles, or 250%. Meanwhile, for those earning $10,000 to $50,000, the average distance increased from 11 to 18 miles, an only 63% increase. Those in lower-income positions across sectors such as hospitality and leisure are often not remote-eligible.

Ultimately, Wilke said that the share of workers who are 50 or more miles away from work hasn’t reached a plateau.

“We are not at the end of the development of this trend. I know we’ve been talking about remote and hybrid work for years since the pandemic, but we’re definitely not done with this trend,” Wilke said. “I also think that it’s important to remember that in the big scheme of social changes, you usually get 20 or 30 years to absorb a change like this. And we did it in two or three.”

Are you a super commuter, or moved far away from the office over the last few years? Contact these reporters at and