The Changing Habits of the Post-Move American: Work From Home & The Great Outdoors

October 20, 2022

By Jolene Wiggins, CMO, Gravy Analytics

This week, Gravy released its latest report, “The Changing Habits of the Post-Move American”. The report examines why and where consumers moved in the aftermath of COVID-19, as well as how their habits have changed, using both location analytics and survey data from 1,500 U.S. consumers. You’ll see that some of the places that attracted new residents at the start of the pandemic are no longer hot spots. In other states, people that initially moved away have started to return! Be sure to download the report if you haven’t already, and let us know what you think.

Man hiking at sunset mountains with heavy backpack

Whenever we produce a data-driven report like this one, there are always a ton of data points that aren’t included in the final product. Sometimes the takeaways are minor, or a little quirky. At other times, there are simply too many charts to include given the available space. In any case, they are always interesting examples of what you can do with aggregated location data and analytics. Read on for a few of my favorite outtakes from this project.

Work From Home Policies Played a Major Role

Widespread remote work policies enabled many to make a move. Over one-third of the people surveyed (36%) indicated they had a remote job, and so were able to move while keeping their job. An additional 25% of respondents indicated that they had to work onsite full-time, so they left their job and got a new one post-move. And, almost half (46%) of the folks that got a new job now have hybrid jobs that require them to occasionally work on-site.

These survey responses are nicely complemented by Gravy’s foot traffic data for office buildings. The chart below shows the percentage change in estimated daily visitors to offices across the country; at the end of Q2 2022, foot traffic to offices was -12% lower overall than in Q1 2020. While foot traffic has since dropped, our data also shows a pronounced high point in Q4 2021. This could reflect businesses’ initial push to bring employees back to the office, and continued changes to hybrid work policies since.

Foot Traffic Trend by Category - Business Venues

As shown in the chart below, we found the return to office trend varies significantly by area of the country. Based on foot traffic, at the end of Q2 2022, consumers living in the Northeast and Southeast were more likely to have returned to the office than those in the West or Midwest. In New York City, for example, foot traffic to office buildings was 67% higher than in Q1 2020, while in Chicago, foot traffic remained -37% lower than pre-pandemic. In general, office buildings in the nation’s 50 largest cities have recaptured more foot traffic than those in smaller markets. 

Foot Traffic Trend by Category and Region - Business Venues

Getting Back to Nature

When asked about the biggest benefit of their move, almost one-quarter (24%) of survey respondents said that the biggest perk is having more access to parks and outdoor recreational activities. More living space (20%) and a lower cost of living (21%) were also major benefits. 

Perceptions did differ a bit by gender. Men (29%) were more likely to say that access to parks and outdoor recreational opportunities was the biggest benefit, while women (23%) were more likely to say that having more living space was their biggest plus.

The chart below shows the percentage change in daily foot traffic to outdoor and recreational areas from Q1 2020 through Q2 2022. While total foot traffic has ebbed and flowed, likely due to seasonality, foot traffic in the category has consistently remained well above pre-pandemic levels.

Foot Traffic Trend by Category - Outdoors & Recreation

Differences emerged when comparing foot traffic to outdoor locations in big cities and smaller towns, however. In the U.S.’s 50 top cities, foot traffic to outdoor and recreational areas actually dropped at the start of the pandemic, and growth remained modest through Q2 2021. Foot traffic then rose dramatically in Q3 and Q4 2021 and, despite a brief seasonal dip in Q1 2022, peaked this year. In contrast, in all other areas, foot traffic to outdoor and recreational locations peaked earlier in the pandemic, and has very gradually declined since. Foot traffic was just 21% higher than pre-pandemic levels in other areas. It seems that big-city dwellers are still prioritizing outdoor activities, while people in smaller towns have started to show signs of outdoor fatigue. 

Foot Traffic Trend by Category and City Size - Outdoors & Recreation

If you’d like to explore consumer movement data in more detail, check out our Population Movement dashboard, also featured in this project. It’s one of my favorite data examples and shows how the population has shifted by state and county across the entire U.S. The dashboard is updated quarterly with the latest data, so be sure to check back again soon to see what has changed.

If you’re ready to learn how you can use location analytics for market research, speak to a location data expert today

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