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Updated: August 6, 2020

New survey boosts case for working remotely in Vacationland

Photo of Katie Shorey and Nate Wildes standing outside on the Portland waterfront Courtesy / LIve+Work in Maine From Live+Work in Maine, director of community engagement Katie Shorey and executive director Nate Wildes, photographed in Portland.

The number of people working remotely in Maine for employers based out of state may be larger than most people think.

That's one of the conclusions of a new survey by Live+Work in Maine, an advocacy group that plans to use the findings and hundreds of anecdotes gathered to make a stronger case for the pluses of working — and hiring — in Vacationland.

Based on responses from about 450 individuals, the survey found:

  • people who already worked remotely in Maine love it and wouldn't want anything different;
  • those who came here to work remotely because of the pandemic are either staying or moving here permanently or thinking about staying; and
  • Mainers who are now working from home because their offices have closed enjoy that more than their prior office setup, with three out of four reporting a greatly improved quality of life.

The findings are in line with prediction that 25% to 30% of the global workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by 2021 as a growing number of large Maine employers rethink their office setup and real estate footprint post-COVID-19.

The survey also found that lots of individuals work in Maine for employers headquartered outside the state, including Google, IBM, online real estate database company Zillow Group Inc., Cambridge, Mass.-based software firm HubSpot Inc., Hartford, Conn.-based research and advisory firm Gartner Inc. and Chicago-based real estate company Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.

"We were pleasantly but utterly shocked at the number of people and the employers they work for already working in Maine,"  Live+Work in Maine Executive Director Nate Wildes told Mainebiz.

He also said that while there's no quantification of the number of individuals working here, the survey results will help his group fine-tune its goal of promoting Maine as an attractive place to work remotely, and not just during the pandemic.

"The reality is that many of us, especially in the white-collar division of work, are going to be remote working for sometime," he said. "Maine had already been doing it, but now we can brand it, we can market it and we can tell the story better."

Towards that end, the survey gathered more than 200 anecdotes related to working remotely in Maine, including a number with family ties here already as well as individuals who relocated here during the pandemic.

"Hundreds of people told us their stories — either how they moved back to Maine or found their way here — and the pride they feel about living and working here is heartwarming," Katie Shorey, director of engagement for Live+Work in Maine as well as president of the nonprofit Startup Maine, told Mainebiz.

"They are focused on their careers — either growing at local companies, working remotely for an out-of-state organization, or starting businesses. We have so many impressive folks in Maine."

Shorey also expressed surprise at the number of people who had made plans years ago to move to or return to Maine, and made in happen. 

"They were intentional about getting their career to a place where they could transfer here, find new employment or work remotely," she said. "And many folks negotiated to work remotely from Maine! People are intentional about how they want to live, and the flexibility and quality of life they are after and it's right here in Maine."

'Act fast and act quickly'

Among the negatives about relocating to Maine cited by respondents is internet access, with 80% of the respondents saying there is a critical need for better high-speed or broadband options and concern about Maine being far behind on that front.

Wildes said that's a common misconception, recommending that anyone thinking of moving to Maine to check the address first, since living on one side of a street or another might make a difference in accessing the 'net.

Live+Work in Maine aims to get that message out, as well as information about coworking spaces, as quickly as possible.

As the world looks at remote working as a new reality, Wildes believes it's important for Maine to seize on that opportunity now.

"It's on us to act fast and act quickly," he added.

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