How Tulsa is Becoming the Thought Leader in Remote Work

Remote work is here to stay, and Tulsa has emerged as a city leading this work revolution.

Remote work and communication tools such as Slack and Zoom have been a part of work culture for a number of years, but over the past two years this work style has become the norm for many professionals. Covid-19 has played an outsized role in accelerating a trend which was already happening, particularly in enabling new locations in the American Heartland to become remote hubs. Even today, as we’re getting a better grip on the pandemic, the transition to hybrid, in-person and remote work models remains messy. Organizations are still trying to figure out the emerging hybrid model, and the interpersonal communication challenges that go along with it. 

One thing is for sure, however—remote work is here to stay, and Tulsa has emerged as a city leading this work revolution.  

Remote work has fundamentally changed how (and where) we work, with most knowledge workers being able to work on the go, from home, or from anywhere, simply using their laptop. But it’s not the digital nomad lifestyle that is glorified in Instagram posts, as most aspiring professionals understand there needs to be some kind of organizational structure in place, even for those working remotely. And while this hybrid approach is great for the employee’s well-being, it is also beneficial for employers when remote workers live in the same area. This is the direction the world is moving to, as this study commissioned by Upwork states: “By 2028, 73% of all departments are expected to have remote workers.”

Next Generation Remote City 

In leading this trend Tulsa has taken active steps to build a remote worker community and has emerged as a city on the razor’s edge of the remote worker movement. 

Programs such as Tulsa Remote have been bringing highly skilled remote workers to the area even before the pandemic. Gen Z and millennials are digital natives who understand how to parlay technology when they work, and they’ve flocked to the city to live among other remote workers. With the pandemic as the great accelerator of this shift, professionals have been inspired to make crucial life decisions and move to a low-cost area where they can afford to buy a house and join a supportive and diverse community. 

Additionally, housing prices in Tulsa have not surged, unlike other cities in the American Heartland where locals have been squeezed out of the market. There is a waiting list of people who want to move to Tulsa, and the community is growing exponentially with close to 1,400 remote workers, the vast majority of whom have opted to stay longer than a year (93%).

In addition to structured programs like Tulsa Remote, key local stakeholders such as inTulsa are focused on creating a talent network to support and feed into the remote worker infrastructure. The migration of professionals, particularly those in tech, from the coasts in search of space, flexibility, and work/life balance has seen an explosion of new talent in the city. This piece in Bloomberg City Lab highlights the success Tulsa has had in retaining that talent: “The short-term staying power of Tulsa appears to be strong. Some 88% of participants that arrived in the city before 2021 stayed at least past the one-year commitment they signed up for, and 39% live in homes that are owned by someone in their household.”

In working to attract remote talent, the city has developed a strong and diverse tech ecosystem with partners such as the co-working space 36 Degrees North and the Tulsa Innovation Labs, with a focus on verticals such as cyber, virtual health, drones, and energy. The growth of local startups is supported by active venture capital funds such as Atento Capital. Remote workers are drawn to a location where things are happening, and this has factored in how Tulsa has been able to attract and retain talent. 

Why This Matters 

This shift to greater remote work is important on the macro level for remote work in that the genie has been released from the bottle, and workers’ attitudes (and productivity) cannot go back to pre-pandemic times. This trend is moving ahead, so it is best to embrace it and collaborate with cities such as Tulsa who are at the tip of the spear. The future belongs to those who create it, in this case, building the ideal environment for remote workers to thrive.

On the tactical level, Tulsa’s central role in the next evolution of work should matter to hiring managers, as well as remote employees considering their next step. Professionals in sought-out professions such as sales and engineering have made the city their home, and have added to the already robust talent pool in the city. For remote workers seeking their next step, Tulsa offers the opportunity, community, and inspiration many professionals may have been missing. Tulsa has become a beta city for the future of work and offers an opportunity for professionals and organizations to join this transformational trend in how we work.