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Tech talent embraces remote work in Arizona after pandemic relocations

When Kalin Eshelman and her fiancé thought about the next phase of their lives and starting a family, moving was part of it. They had enjoyed their time in Chicago, but they were looking to Colorado or Arizona to start their next chapter.

Once the Covid-19 pandemic hit, her fiancé was laid off and she was forced to work from home. They saw it as an opportunity to get out of Chicago and be remote full-time.

“The Phoenix area was on our radar, it’s just that a lot of people beat us to it,” she said. “Everyone has the same plan as us, everyone’s going to Arizona now.”

Eshelman and her fiancé recently moved to Scottsdale and they are among the thousands of people around the country who chose to relocate and work remote full-time in the wake of the pandemic.

Last year Phoenix had a net inflow of more than 82,000 people, according to data from Redfin, which was the largest growth among U.S. metros in 2020. 

Heading to the ‘burbs

Nationally, Apartment List researchers analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data and found that 16% of American workers moved between April 2020 and April 2021, which was the first time that the percentage of people who changed residence in a year increased in over a decade.

Eshelman works in sales for Chicago-based G2, a website that does business-to-business software reviews. She said the Valley was the right choice for them because it’s cheaper than Chicago, they can strike a better work-life balance being remote here and there is a tech boom happening in the area.

She said that when she started in her position two years ago, her entire team was in Chicago. But since the pandemic, many members of the team have left for the suburbs around town or fled to Ohio, New Jersey, Colorado and California.

Eshelman said she had never worked remotely in her career prior to Covid-19, but she’s since embraced her remote reality: She bought a standup desk, placed lights behind her computer monitors to enhance her video calls and bought an anti-fatigue mat to stand on in her new apartment.

The up and up

Daniel Murphy is another Valley newcomer destined for Tempe. Murphy spoke with the Business Journal in between packing up boxes in his Boston apartment.

“When the pandemic hit, my boss packed up his stuff and moved up to Vermont, from Boston. And that kind of opened my eyes,” he said. “I looked at my fiancée and I said, ‘You know, I think we could do this too, if we wanted to, why couldn’t we go to Arizona?’”

Murphy’s fiancée grew up in the Valley and he said they had long talked about moving here.

Murphy is the director of marketing at Privy, a Boston marketing software startup. Like Eshelman, he did not work remote prior to the pandemic and now some of his co-workers have spread out to other states. He said that Privvy shifted its policy to be a remote-first company, much like fellow tech startup Postscript.

Murphy said he incorrectly assumed that he could help establish a tech scene here before realizing how strong it already is.

“Coming from Boston, I’ve worked with some cool companies and there’s not really any tech going on in Phoenix, I’m gonna come down there and I’m gonna help change that,” he said, recalling his previous mindset. “And then I was like, oh my lord, there’s a million people out here that are working in tech. This is awesome.”

Murphy is also planning on launching a podcast next month called Tech in Arizona.

“It’s definitely a happening area, and I think it’s on the up and up,” he said.”I’m hoping over the next five to 10 years, it’s going to be an even bigger scene. And people like myself and others that are moving in can help play a role in that.”

Though Phoenix may be an appealing landing spot for people to go remote full time, newcomers have a steep challenge finding a home to purchase

Eshelman has been looking for a house and she said that in her hunt so far, they’ve seen houses go for more than $100,000 over the asking price.

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