by Kathy Henrich

Remote work is something that most had not previously experienced until March and now is the norm.  However, it is not new to tech workers.   I happened to be an early adopter when IBM sent us to work from home in 1994 when communications required physically wiring our homes with ethernet and two phone lines.   However, I was not alone. In 2019, 10.2% of mathematical and computer professionals worked 100% remote.[1]

There has been a lot of speculation about what will happen to the remote work trend when we return to “normal.”  Here are some things to consider, specifically for tech workers:

  • In a recent survey, 95% of tech workers said they intended to continue to work remote after the pandemic[2]
  • Employers overwhelmingly (83%) say the “work from home” experiment has gone well, but 65% also believe being in the office at least three days a week will be required to maintain culture. [3] In my personal experience at IBM, we started requiring people to come back to the office to re-establish culture and drive innovation[4]

Regardless, the number of pure remote tech workers is likely to grow at least two- to four times from pre-pandemic levels based on post-pandemic job postings that indicate that they are remote jobs.[5] This may create a “once in a generation” opportunity for Wisconsin to welcome remote tech workers back to the state, and we are well positioned to do so:

  • 50% of the individuals surveyed in the survey are looking to move in the next 12 months. Quality of life, cost of living, and family/friends were given as the top reasons for moving.  However, they also want to move to a tech hub (76%) and have access to local professional networks (52%)[6]
  • Milwaukee and Madison are both regularly ranked as top destinations for workers including being on the list of top cities for remote workers (Milwaukee #2)[7], top net inflow of tech workers (Madison #1) [8]and top growth cities (#5 Madison, #13 Milwaukee)[9]

So, what does this all mean to employers and to the state in general?

  • Now is the time to welcome tech workers back to the state – those with “alumni” connections whether that is they lived here, worked here, or graduated from here. To be successful in attracting them back to the state, we need to show them that we are already a tech hub (which we are!) including local tech career and developmental opportunities, even as remote workers.
  • Employers should be prepared for tech workers to want flexibility. The 95% number from Indeed may be extreme, but we can assume that few will want to come back five days a week.  This will mean that we need to be purposeful in creating reasons for being in the office from collaboration sessions to socialization opportunities to face-to-face mentoring opportunities.

Wisconsin is well-positioned for this trend based on our quality of life and cost of living. We are not naturally ones to brag about our state, but now is the time to do so such as in this Purpose.Jobs article on Why Tech Workers Choose Milwaukee.

Capturing these virtual workers is important to the long-term health of the region.   Individuals returning from the coasts bring with them high paying wages, innovative ideas and often, their own startup ideas. They also create a future tech talent pool for our local employers.  We need to embrace these individuals and show our generous, welcoming spirit.  This could be a boon for the state of Wisconsin!

Henrich is CEO of the Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition, which represents nearly 70 organizations focused on inclusively doubling tech talent in Milwaukee. Connect with her on LinkedIn.


[1], COVID-19’s Biggest Legacy: Remote Work and Its Implications for the US Post-Pandemic Labor Market Conference Board, January 26, 2021
[2]​, November 19, 2020
[3]​, January 12, 2021
[4], October 12, 2017
[5], COVID-19’s Biggest Legacy: Remote Work and Its Implications for the US Post-Pandemic Labor Market Conference Board, January 26, 2021
[6]​, November 19, 2020
[7], October 5, 2020
[8], December 17, 2020
[9], January 4, 2021