Ben Ghosh, head of revenue at home delivery meat startup ButcherBox, lived less than a mile from the company’s Boston headquarters. But when the city shut down in March because of the pandemic, Ghosh, 37, and his wife took what they figured would be a one-month “work vacation” to Utah.
Months later, they (along with their dog and cat) are still there.
“I didn’t think it would be permanent until I got here and fell in love with the area,” he said from the small city of Moab. “It only took a few times walking in the national parks, or doing hikes, or paddleboarding on the Colorado River before I realized the quality of life was really great out here.”
Ghosh is one of about two dozen employees who decided to relocate because of COVID-19, said ButcherBox founder Mike Salguero. About 20 percent of the company’s 100 workers are now either permanently or temporarily working outside of Massachusetts.
The exodus took place in June, he said, when many apartment leases were up for renewal.
“I don’t think there will be a time where everyone comes back to the office, ever,” Salguero said. “We can change the way we operate, rather than asking everyone to move back.”
Other area companies are adopting a similar approach, coming to the realization that, for some, working from home can mean working from virtually anywhere.
Emmy Linder, chief operating officer of Boston cybersecurity firm Cybereason, said some employees have moved out of state during the pandemic. At the same time, she said, the company has become more open to hiring people who work remotely. Cybereason has about 700 employees globally, including around 130 in Boston.
“In the past, we would have preferred for some positions to be in Boston . . . and now it really doesn’t matter,” Linder said. “We are interested in where our people are living, but we don’t really care.”
As a software company, Linder said, employees do not need to be in the office to do their jobs.
Eva Maloney, vice president of business operations at Boston-based software company AppNeta, moved to Georgia from a Boston suburb in May to be closer to her family. She said she and her husband have busy careers on top of caring for two young children, so they “needed family support to make it all work.”
Maloney said the pandemic has made working remotely more acceptable, which helped her feel more comfortable about the decision to relocate.
“I feel so fortunate that I was able to do what was right for my family, but also maintain my career at a company I love,” she said about AppNeta, where she’s worked for almost nine years. “We have a lot of folks that have been with us for a long time, and over that time, your life changes, your priorities shift.”
Executives said one benefit of a work-from-anywhere policy is access to a larger talent pool.
Pat Kinsel, CEO of online notary service Notarize, said the majority of the more than 100 employees the company has hired since March are not based in Boston. (Notarize saw a 600 percent increase in business as the pandemic caused many people to look for alternatives to in-person services).
“I see this as an enormous opportunity to up-level our company and hire talent we otherwise couldn’t have found,” Kinsel said.
Some Notarize workers who previously commuted to the Boston have since moved out of Massachusetts ― some only temporarily ― to states such as Indiana, Florida, and New Hampshire.
Of course, a change in residency can affect where employees pay taxes. New Hampshire is suing Massachusetts over an income tax dispute on telecommuters, maintaining that New Hampshire residents no longer physically working over the state line should be exempt from Massachusetts' income tax.
“It’s a mess for employers because we are supposed to pay withholding to the right states,” ButcherBox’s Salguero said.
Employers are also aware that a worker’s Boston salary may go farther in less expensive locations.
Linder said a pay differential is being discussed at Cybereason, but nothing has been decided yet. Kinsel said Notarize hasn’t made any changes to employee pay, and it doesn’t expect to do so, but the company will likely institute more formal remote work guidelines as it becomes more common.
Lisa Nickerson, the chief executive of Boston marketing and communications agency Nickerson, was in the process of moving the company’s headquarters when the pandemic hit, and the lease for the new space was in her e-mail in-box. After a close friend warned Nickerson the pandemic could affect the United States longer than originally forecasted, she held off on signing the paperwork. She now plans to keep the company working from home until at least 2022. Because of that, some employees have moved out of the city, and the company is hiring remote workers in New York and Miami.
“We are not looking for any office space . . . we are finding that the team is extremely efficient [at home]," she said. "Offices are very expensive, and it doesn’t mean we won’t revisit it next year, but at this time, you can’t even go into the office in the way that makes it better to be there.”
Linder said she still sees a benefit to having physical offices for Cybereason, but the company is considering how much it needs. She said she believes the benefits of allowing more remote work flexibility could outweigh the difficulties of not having everyone in the same room.
“People will be happier if they live the lives they want to live,” she said. “I think that gets us into a positive spiral of getting better and happier workers.”
That has been the case for Danielle Sirk, a senior copywriter at ButcherBox, who moved to the Boston area from Baltimore for her new job about a year ago. "Everything was great until the pandemic hit,” she said.
After a week of living in self-isolation, she returned to the Baltimore area to be with family, thinking it would be a temporary move. In August, however, she decided to lease an apartment there and keep working remotely for ButcherBox. She’s now shopping at her old grocery store, seeing her friends, and going for runs on the same trails she used before moving to Boston.
“It’s going really well, and it’s something I never thought I would be doing,” she said. " It feels like I am back at home, but I’m still working for a company I love and believe in."