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Study finds Bakersfield lags in remote-friendly work

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The home workplace of residential real estate developers Austin and Anna Smith, owners of Sage Equities.

The remote-work trend changing the nation's workplace culture is taking a long time getting to Bakersfield.

A new report ranked the city 98th among the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas in remote-friendly job opportunities, with about 21 percent of local positions easily performed from home as compared with 29 percent nationally.

That finding came as no surprise to local workforce observers, who noted Bakersfield's strengths in oil, agriculture and logistics don't easily accommodate people who prefer to work on a laptop far from their supervisor's gaze.

The implications are significant: ApartmentList.com, the online rental marketplace that released the report, also determined remote-friendly positions tend to pay better — a median of $48,000 per year in Bakersfield versus $30,000 for jobs that aren't remote-friendly.

Apartment List estimated that one in three U.S. jobs could be performed remotely over the long term. It said the availability of such positions will affect migration patterns and housing markets around the country.

Nationally, it said, the median pay for remote-friendly jobs such as software engineer and accountant is $59,000, or 64 percent more than the median for jobs that aren't easily done remotely. Data from the report came from the federal Department of Labor and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The report took the study a step further, looking also at people whose careers are completely "untethered," meaning they have a remote-friendly occupation plus they rent their home, have no school-age children and are unmarried or have a partner with a remote-friendly job.

By that measure, Bakersfield ranks 95th out of 100 U.S. metros, with about 3 percent of residents classified as untethered as compared with 5.6 percent nationwide, Apartment List determined.

Robin Paggi, a Bakersfield training and development specialist with Worklogic HR, said by email the city is mostly a manual-labor community and she doesn't see that changing anytime soon.

Although untethered workers might want to relocate to Bakersfield because of the city's relatively high affordability, she noted the move might come with a pay cut.

"Employers are now considering paying people based on where they live, not on where the company is located," she wrote.

Kathryn Clowes, founder of Bakersfield higher-education consulting firm March Consulting, noted the city continues to suffer "brain drain" from students who leave for college and never return, partly because of a lack of high-tech job opportunities such as those Apartment List considers remote-friendly.

She said by email Bakersfield has done more in recent years to rethink and diversify its economy to build more remote-friendly jobs. She advised employers to consider whether the jobs they offer can be performed from a distance, adding that the benefits can extend broadly.

"I'm also hoping that if we can attract part of that untethered workforce," she wrote, "our affordability will urge them to stay and establish roots in our community."

If that does become a goal, the city might want to do more to expand access to reliable, high-speed internet service and lower energy rates because, she stated, "Who wants to spend an average of $400 a month in the summer on air conditioning?"