42% of US companies allow employees to relocate but most not leaving, survey finds

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — The pandemic has drastically changed the future of workplaces across the country, especially in California.

ABC7 News partnered with Sequoia Consulting Group, a global consulting and services company, that surveyed 500 companies across the U.S. to assess how workplaces will look different this year.

RELATED: Some US companies explore 4-day work week as COVID-19 sparks re-evaluation of working norms

Of the 500 companies surveyed in this report – 70 percent are based in California, the majority of which are allowing employees to permanently relocate to any state. But we wanted to know if the mass exodus is as bad as we think?

“The percentages may surprise you,” said Kyle Holm, Vice President of Total Rewards Advisory.

According to the survey, 42 percent of the companies are allowing employees to permanently relocate to any state. But, the majority (59 percent) indicated only 1-10 percent of employees have actually moved to another state or country.

“It’s not as many employees permanently relocating as I would’ve thought,” Holm said.

The survey also found 20 percent of companies relocating from the Bay Area will reduce or adjust salaries for employees moving to a lower cost of living area. Whereas, 44 percent indicated salaries will remain the same.

WATCH: How will San Francisco’s downtown Financial District bring employees back to work in high-rise offices?

“That felt like a pretty strong commitment from a lot of companies straight out of the gate, knowing they could’ve been in much lower cost of living areas,” said Holm.

Alternatively, only 27 percent of companies indicated they would raise salaries for those moving to areas with a higher cost of living, the study found. 37 percent of companies said they would pay the same and not make an adjustment, raising questions about employee turnover.

“There’s a question of whether employees will be looking around,” said Holm. “There’s a strong labor market and right now employees have a fair amount of choice… leverage that they didn’t have before.”

Landon Hersch is the Director of Software Solutions for Sequoia Consulting Group. He says a majority of the companies surveyed indicated that will be the norm of the future.

“Less and less companies are staying with the five day a week strategy for the foreseeable future and moving towards a hybrid mix once they do return their employees,” said Hersch.

RELATED: Frustrated Californians move out, say coronavirus ‘pandemic was last straw’

Fewer than five percent of the companies surveyed are making five days a week the standard for coming back to the office. The focus for the majority of companies is allowing more flexibility when it comes to hours and work locations.

“A lot of flexibility,” said Tony Huie, CEO of tech startup Twingate. “Some folks may want to wake up take their kids to school and then figure out what their day looks like from there… others may want to take a walk instead of a three-hour commute.”

Huie’s company is fully remote which he says has helped attract quality candidates.

“We’ve been able to bring on teammates from all over the world,” he said. “Whereas, if we were confined to a single location that wouldn’t be possible.”

But, other companies like healthcare startup GoodRX told ABC7 there’s no substitute for in-person collaboration. Most employees in the company’s San Francisco office are expected to be fully back (part-time) by March.

WATCH: Hundreds of remote workers bite on Tulsa’s offer to pay them $10,000 to move

“There’s a certain sense of FOMO, (fear of missing out) where they want to be in person and they want to be a part of it,” said Andrew Barrett Weiss, the company’s Director of Workplace Experience.

Overall 75 percent of companies, a majority of which are based in California are looking at a hybrid work model with no ‘immediate’ plans to have all employees return back in the office. Even if it means some companies will still be maintaining empty space.

“When do you anticipate this office will be filled with employees again?” ABC7’s Stephanie Sierra asked.

“I don’t know if we do,” said Tori Runzel, the Head of People at Divvy Homes. “We’ve found our employees like the flexibility and only want to come in once or twice a week.”

Runzel told ABC7 earlier in the pandemic the company already downsized to an office space three times smaller because nobody was coming in.

“If all of them wanted to come back tomorrow, we’d support that… and if they’d never want to come in the office again, we’d also support that.”

A majority of the companies have indicated Zoom other similar video conferencing apps will be used for the foreseeable future – some even starting to implement programs that will help employees prioritize and limit screen time to avoid ‘Zoom fatigue.’

Here is a closer look at the survey’s findings: https://www.sequoia.com/abc7news

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