Madison among the best places for remote work and enjoying the outdoors

New report highlights Madison’s outdoor amenities as a draw for remote workers.
Wisconsin Madison The Nature Boardwalk

Madison is used to ranking high on “Best of” lists. Earlier this summer, for instance, Madison earned its rank as the best place to live in the U.S for the second year in a row. In fact, in its ranking of the best places to live, Livability called out Madison’s 200 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and snowshoeing, as well as its five lakes, dozens of beaches, and hundreds of parks, as some of what makes it great for living.

Turns out, those outdoor amenities have also landed Madison near the top of another new list: America’s Best Cities for Remote Workers.

Ownerly, a home valuation website, analyzed more than 1,000 U.S. cities to determine its list of best Zoom towns for people who love the outdoors.

“The pandemic has opened up the chance for people to work remotely from wherever they like,” notes Ownerly’s Kristine Liao. “Many workers no longer have to prioritize proximity to the office when deciding where to live. Instead, they can consider other factors that would improve their quality of life — one of which is access to the outdoors.”

This shift may be causing the most popular U.S. cities to lose their appeal, continues Liao. According to U.S. Census Bureau, some of the nation’s largest cities, including San Francisco, New York, and Boston, experienced the steepest population declines during the first year of the pandemic. In the age of remote work, smaller cities and towns seem to be becoming more desirable.

Ownerly analyzed 445 cities across the nation to find out which ones come on top for remote workers who love the outdoors. For this outdoors-focused list, Ownerly weighted its evaluations primarily on factors such as access to green space, number of gyms, prevalence of leisure time activities, and levels of local or state fitness.

Madison was ranked No. 23 on the list, and its accolades only continue from there. Among large cities, those with a population of 250,000 or more, Madison ranked second. And among Midwest cities, Madison ranked third. Wisconsin cities managed to take one-third of the Midwest’s top 15 spots, with Sheboygan and Green Bay coming in at eighth and ninth respectively, and Appleton and Stevens Point ranking Nos. 13 and 14. Milwaukee also ranked ninth among all large cities nationally.

Madison’s reputation as a city where people can both work and play is aided by Wisconsin’s overall outdoor economy, which was one of the few sectors that was actually boosted by the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2020 study by Headwaters Economics, commissioned by the Department of Tourism, showed that Wisconsin’s $7.8 billion outdoor economy grew by 12%, compared to 7% growth by the state’s overall economy during the summer of 2020 when the COVID pandemic was raging. The recreation industry benefited from increased interest and participation in activities, including biking, camping, hiking, and golf.

For those looking to take advantage of remote work opportunities in and around Madison, PeopleSmart, an online prospecting tool, analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources to rank the top 10 jobs for remote/flexible work in Wisconsin, and their median incomes, as follows:

  1. Management analysts — $81,340;
  2. Software developers and software quality assurance analysts and testers — $91,810;
  3. Human resources specialists — $59,370;
  4. Computer systems analysts — $80,990;
  5. Logisticians — $62,870;
  6. Web developers and digital interface designers — $60,710;
  7. Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products — $61,360;
  8. Administrative services and facilities managers — $108,980;
  9. Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists — $84,830; and
  10. Market research analysts and marketing specialists — $58,060.

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