When Briana Russo was on a recent job search, she specifically looked for a telecommuting position where she could work from home. She got this job with Merck and Co. almost a year ago and loved doing her job in Joplin.
It’s a nice change from living in Texas or New York where he’s lived for previous jobs.
“The main reason is that I wanted to buy a house,” said Russo, who is a senior statistician for the drug company. “Buying a house here is a lot easier than in Austin, so that’s been great. Also, living closer to family is great.”
Russo is not alone, and thanks to a favorable Wall Street Journal report, others will follow. Joplin was ranked second in a list of the best places to work remotely: only nearby Springfield performed better for factors attractive to remote workers such as housing prices, high-speed Internet access, and affordability, as well as features such as restaurants and green spaces.
The news was celebrated by Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce officials, who worked to provide resources to those employees.
Erin Slifka, head of marketing and public information for the chamber, said making the list is something the community should be proud of.
“This is a great achievement for our community, because it speaks to our affordability and our dollar going beyond here,” Slifka said. “There’s also our amazing amenities, green spaces, and restaurants.”
The Journal’s report was based on a two-pronged approach. It worked with survey firm Ipsos to determine which factors affected remote workers the most. Armed with that data, the Journal pursued statistics by addressing these factors to develop its list.
Springfield and Joplin, at Nos. 1 and 2, aren’t the only Midwestern cities to make the top 10. Major metropolitan areas Kansas City, Kansas, St. Louis, and Wichita made the list at Nos. 7, 8, and 9, respectively. Conway , Arkansas came in at No. 4, nestled between Evansville and Lafayette, Indiana at Nos. 3 and 5. Huntington, West Virginia was the only non-Midwestern city in the top 10, at No. 6.
The list took into consideration:
• House prices and average house sizes.
• Lower cost of living.
• Proximity to restaurants, places of art and parks.
• Unemployment rate.
• Availability and affordability of high-speed broadband Internet.
Fully remote workers make up about 13 percent of working Americans, or about 25 million people, according to a Stanford University economist, according to the Journal’s report. Most of these employees work in call centers, technical support or data entry.
Slifka said the chamber does not have local numbers on remote workers in Joplin. All they have is anecdotal evidence, gleaned from conversations at the chamber’s Joseph Newman Innovation Center, a building that provides space for startups and other entrepreneurs.
Remote workers turn to a location as the hub for interacting with others once things get too quiet at home, and a look at coffee shops also shows people can take their work anywhere, Slifka said.
“We haven’t captured that data yet because the challenge is that it’s isolated,” Slifka said. “But we know they’re out there. People have these opportunities and they’re just trying to find where they can connect and make sure they have access to the resources they need.”
The chamber is working to capitalize on the Journal’s report with a marketing campaign aimed at people outside the market who may be looking for what the region has to offer.
Developing that campaign and resources for remote workers could help them, Russo said.
“One difficult thing for remote workers is that they don’t feel like they’re a part of the community, because they’re spending time in their homes,” Russo said. “Building communities with a shared workspace gives us the opportunity to be with other people while we do our work.”