Will Vermont’s Remote Worker Incentive Attract Residents?

State officials are thinking of creative ways to rebuild the state’s workforce


Employers aren't the only ones trying to attract people by offering benefits to mobile workers. Vermont is offering $10,000 to a limited number of telecommuters who relocate to the state starting in 2019.

As Vermont's population ages, its tax base diminishes. The new law is designed to pull in full-time employees who will reside in the state and pay taxes there, while working from home or a co-working space, explained Danielle Vanderzanden, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Boston and Portland, Maine.

Vermont lost about 16,000 workforce participants in the past decade, and expanding the state's workforce is one of Gov. Phil Scott's top priorities. "We must think outside the box to help more Vermonters enter the labor force and attract more working families and young professionals to Vermont," he said in a press statement.

It's a small project, noted Michael Marra, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in New York City. $500,000 will be allocated to grants over the first three years, and up to $100,000 could be available each year thereafter. Eligible participants will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis. Workers must be employed full time to qualify.

"It's important for employers and eligible employees to be aware that the entire payment will not be made right away," Vanderzanden said. Qualified new residents will be reimbursed up to $5,000 per year (and not more than $10,000 total) for moving expenses, co-working space membership fees, broadband access and other business-related expenses.

"The idea behind the program is to help defray the cost of things like a remote office to conduct the work or Internet connectivity," she explained.

State officials will probably track what happens to the first 50 to 100 participants to see how the program works, Marra said, adding that, if the program doesn't reap the desired benefits, it will not result in much of a loss for the state.

The remote-worker incentive is just one strategy that Vermont officials are offering to attract workers to the state. They are also hosting several lodging and networking events in 2018 to connect visitors with local employers and residents. "Thirteen million [visitors] come to Vermont each year, and many of them express a desire to stay permanently as residents," said Wendy Knight, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing.

Capitalizing on a Mobile Workforce

"Increasingly, remote work works," Marra said. Having a remote workforce might not be realistic for all businesses and all jobs, but, when it does make sense, there are lots of potential savings for employers and employees alike.

For example, businesses can save on office space if workers show up on alternate days or don't come in at all. Office space is a big expense, so this is something more businesses are thinking about, he noted.

Remote work also allows for employees to enjoy flexible hours and cut down on their commuting time. There is a shift to start measuring employees by what they are accomplishing rather than by the hours they put in, Marra added.

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So what should employers do if workers want to take advantage of Vermont's offer or other remote-work benefits? Employers that decide to allow workers to relocate will need to ensure that they have robust remote-work policies, Vanderzanden said. They should consider, for instance, how they will:

  • Manage employee performance and attendance.
  • Provide a safe workspace for employees.
  • Create effective reporting systems.
  • Ensure compliance with the employer's code of ethics, confidentiality obligations and other applicable policies. 

Related SHRM Articles

Interviewing Remote Employees: How to Measure and Manage the Unseen, SHRM Online Talent Acquisition, July 2018.

How to Create an Effective Teleworking Program, SHRM Online Employee Relations, April 2018.

How to Manage Workplace Safety Issues for Remote Employees, SHRM Online Employment Law, August 2017.


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