During the COVID-19 pandemic, telecommuting has become the norm for workers across the nation. Many employers have extended their work-from-home policies on a permanent basis, giving employees the freedom to work from anywhere.
According to a November 2020 article from The Hechinger Report, a national nonprofit newsroom that reports on education, many remote workers are fleeing big cities for smaller towns. With an 82% increase in migration in the spring of 2020 compared to the spring of 2019, the Little Rock metro emerged among the top 10 destination cities.
Loni Risner is a health insurance agent who began working remotely for the first time in March 2020. She and her husband, Wacy, an Arkansas native, lived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for 3 ½ years before relocating to Conway. Loni said cost was their biggest factor when deciding to move; Conway routinely tops national lists of the most affordable places to live. Its low cost of living has earned it mentions in CBS News, Forbes, and The Simple Dollar.
“South Florida is extremely expensive,” she said. “Other factors we considered were the feel of the community and keeping access to great schools for ourselves and hopefully our future children.”
Loni said remote work has given her and her husband the freedom to live wherever they want while retaining their income. They also enjoy being with their pets all day – two dogs and a cat.
“The troubles and preparation of commuting is gone. And we make the same money we did in the hustle of the city.”
Although Loni enjoys many aspects of remote work, she said it does come with its challenges.
“It’s important to invest in good equipment and reliable internet,” she said. “And it’s a challenge to keep an energy comparable to being in a social environment.”
Loni said employers can better accommodate remote workers by keeping an open and constant line of communication.
“To me, our world today seems a lot more understandable of those who are transitioning or going through changes these days. Just make sure there’s always someone to call when help is needed.”
Outside of work, Loni said she looks forward to growing their family, making a lifetime of memories, and being part of a great community.
“Conway is a beautiful, thriving, and growing town. It can give you a small-town-with-hospitality vibe while not lacking in things to do. It’s not very far from various points, like [Petit Jean] Mountain and the airport.”
Loni said there are some things she’ll miss about Florida, such as the constant warm weather, and there are things that will take some getting used to in her new community.
“Tornadoes made me nervous about moving to Arkansas, but hurricanes are no better. We picked our poison,” she said. “We have grown accustomed to a lively, chaotic environment in Florida. Although we’ll enjoy having some peace and quiet, it will take a while to get used to.”
A native of Georgia, Loni knows she will feel right at home in Arkansas.
“Arkansas is exactly what I needed to get back to my Southern roots. I must say, though, Arkansas has an amazing landscape that I could never get in South Georgia or Florida. That’s the cherry on top.”