Remote work has remained popular in Maine several years after the COVID-19 pandemic, with the number of worksites in Maine recently exceeding the number of jobs added.

Before the pandemic, jobs and worksites increased at similar rates, according to a recent report by the Center for Workforce Research and Information at the Maine Department of Labor. The number of worksites has since posted a stronger increase, due primarily to the “remote work revolution” of employees moving to Maine while working for an employer elsewhere and residents working in Maine for employers located elsewhere.

“We all know the pandemic led to lots of changes,” Mark McInerney, director of the Center for Workforce Research and Information, said in an interview Thursday. “Remote work is one of those aspects.”

Jobs across all industries increased 4% between 2018 and 2023, or 24,700 jobs, according to the report. The number of worksites in the same period jumped by 21%, to 64,222 from 53,137.

Jobs are reported on the basis of where work is performed. For remote workers based primarily in Maine and working for an employer located in another state, their employment is counted in Maine rather than where the employer is based.

The rise of remote worksites in Maine – such as home offices, libraries and co-working spaces – has partly fueled “quite a bit of migration,” McInerney said.

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Officials estimate Maine needs approximately 38,500 homes to account for previous underproduction, and between 37,900 and 45,800 homes to meet expected population growth and household change by 2030, according to a study last fall.

About 16% of workers in Maine reported their home as their primary worksite, according to American Community Survey data in 2022.

The state has funneled over $2 million in the last two years to libraries and communal office businesses to encourage more people to do their work there. The governor’s Remote Worker Welcome Program is aimed at getting the people who came to Maine during the pandemic – and boosted the state’s population for the first time in years – to stay.

Employers that offer remote work have a workforce and worksites that are more geographically dispersed, the state study said. For workers, it’s a benefit that provides more flexibility on where to live, with a “commuting radius” no longer being important, McInerney said. “It can broaden how far they can look for work,” he said.

The Center for Workforce Research and Information documents the connections between remote work and job trends, and compares the number of jobs to changes in worksites in Maine. It’s part of a growing body of research on how COVID-19 altered the workplace, commercial office space, downtown real estate markets and other labor-related practices.

The number of worksites in Maine spiked following the pandemic, primarily due to increases in remote work. Much of the net job growth in recent years has been at small worksites with five or fewer employees, many with only one employee, according to the report.

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HYBRID WORK ON THE RISE

Employers’ reliance on remote work has led some jobs to shift to different states and sectors, generally because some remote workers relocated and residents started new remote jobs where employers did not previously have an established worksite in Maine.

Nationally, remote work entirely from home is declining while hybrid workplaces are on the rise. A Pew Research Center survey found that 35% of workers with jobs that can be done remotely are working from home exclusively. That’s down from 43% in January 2022 and 55% in October 2020, but is an increase from 7% before the pandemic.

The survey said 41% of those with jobs that can be done remotely are working a hybrid schedule, mixing work time at home with their workplace. That’s up from 35% in January 2022.

Remote work in Maine skewed to very small workplaces: Employers of one worker increased 37%, accounting for 17% of the net job gain, or 4,200 jobs in Maine. Employers with two to five workers increased 13%, accounting for 23% of the increase in jobs, or 5,700 positions.

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