Lebanon topped Ownerly’s recently-released ranking of the Top 10 Cities for Remote Workers.
Michael Pugh, business intelligence manager at Ownerly, said Ownerly is a real estate website that allows people to see what their home is worth and also connects people to information about mortgages and loans as well as information about buying and selling a home. He said Ownerly often puts out content that fits with the company’s brand.
“Like many other companies across the country, most of our entire company is working remotely right now,” Pugh said. “So this is a really relevant topic.”
The ranking indicates Lebanon has a median home value of $181,800, median rent of $882. Residents also have access to at least three broadband providers, which earned the city a broadband score of 97.5. Ownerly said “work-life balance gets a boost from the area’s plentiful green space, consisting not only of municipal parks but also two state parks, plus neighboring Mt. Gretna with its family-friendly attractions and vibrant arts scene.”
Rodney Royer, chair of Downtown Lebanon’s board, said the organization views the top ranking in the study as an opportunity. “One of the things we’re looking to do is to revitalize the downtown area. We want to see downtown businesses thrive and to promote the downtown’s residential component. As a remote worker living in downtown, you could visit shops and restaurants on your flex time.”
He said information in the ranking affirms the internet connectivity that can be found downtown as well as the low cost of living.
Karen Groh, president and CEO of the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce, views Lebanon’s top ranking as a mixed blessing. “It’s great for the community and area to have this recognition. It definitely says a lot about what we have to offer.”
She said the information about connectivity and green space could be a draw for area businesses when they’re looking to fill positions. “There’s a need for a younger population in our area, and those are two areas that are big with younger people.”
The downside —“There’s a huge need for workforce housing in our area. Plus I’m concerned that people could relocate here and instead of working for a local company, they could be a remote worker for a company without any ties to the area. But ultimately if they have a good job, they’re contributing to the economy of the area,” Groh explained.
Having worked from home for about 20 years in another position, Groh has had experience as a remote worker. “When you work from home, you work harder and smarter; you know what you have to get down and when. It takes discipline on the part of the employee and trust from an employer,” she said. “One thing that companies will find missing in remote work is the teamwork and camaraderie; it doesn’t happen with a Zoom meeting.”
Royer pointed out that if a remote worker does want to be among people, there are places to socialize in downtown Lebanon. “Some restaurants and cafes like Panera Bread or Starbucks offer free wi-fi. I’ve seen people there working at their laptops or having a one-on-one meeting,” Royer said.
Pugh explained that the remote workers ranking is based on data collected from a number of different metrics relevant to people working remotely. For this study, Ownerly examined 304 metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas as identified by the US Census Bureau. They were ranked based on a weighted average of data points related to the cities’ housing values, affordability of goods and services, web connectivity, safety, climate and park access. Pugh said the latest available data for each metric was used for the ranking, and most data is from 2019 or 2020.
He said the connectivity metric reflects the ability of remote workers to connect to the internet and includes the availability of free public wi-fi and the percentage of people that had three or more internet providers available to them.
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