In May, Microsoft released its annual Work Without Walls survey. The findings are sprinkled with nuggets of wisdom for those interested in remote work trends (employers think workers should telecommute four days a month, workers themselves say nine, for instance) but the main thrust of the report each year is to rank the best cities for telecommuting. For those who are curious, here’s Microsoft’s top ten in 2011:
- Washington, D.C.
- San Francisco
Microsoft is hardly the only one to draw up such as list. Forbes crowned some cities “Telecommuting Heavens” (go Albuquerque!), Money magazine did a list all the way back in 1997, and a company called CartridgeSave has drawn up international rankings for some reason. The general idea behind all of them seems to be to find places with excellent tech connections and community, good lifestyle and cheap living. But are these lists useful?
The affordability of a city is certainly an important consideration and objectively provable, but there are lots of lists of good value places to live online already. And for savvy pros willing to pay, good Internet connections are available nearly everywhere these days, except perhaps some very rural locations.
Lifestyle, meanwhile, seems pretty individual. Personally, I can’t understand why anyone would strap boards to their feet and subject themselves to freezing weather to hurtle down a hill, so the appeal of the Rocky Mountain ski havens is limited for me. Obviously, large swathes of the population would vehemently disagree. Heat or cold, slow moving or zinging with energy, surfer-friendly or musician-filled, our preferences in places to live make determining a single measure of lifestyle appeal difficult to impossible. Which is the whole point of web work: enabling individuals to escape from corporate determinations of which locations are best.
Is there such a thing as a good city for web work, or is the choice entirely personal?