Discover 5 pet-friendly condos in Honolulu.
With remote work on the rise, working from home in Hawaii is becoming more of a possibility for people with employers located around the world. At the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is estimated that over 70 percent of employees were working from home. And as the COVID-19 restrictions have subsided and technology has continued to change industries, some employers have continued the option of working from home.
But before you pack up your bags to work from home in Hawaii, study up on the Hawaii economy and Hawaii industries to contemplate whether Hawaii remote work is a viable option for you. And if you do decide to make the move, our top tips for working remotely from Hawaii might help to ease your transition to paradise.
While Hawaii may have some of the best waves in the world, its economy is not as stellar. Hawaii’s economy ranks near the bottom when compared to other states in the United States in a number of measures, including GDP and savings.
At the end of 2020, Hawaii was ranked 38, with California being ranked first, in terms of gross domestic product or GDP, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. In basic terms, GDP is the value of the good and services produced minus the value of the good and services needed to produce them.
GDP (millions $)
Hawaii also ranks low compared to other U.S. states low in terms of average retirement savings, being ranked number 45 out of 51 (including Puerto Rico), according to data from Daily Capitol as of April 2021.
Average Retirement Savings
Being the most isolated island chain in the world that has increasingly relied heavily on imports, the Hawaii economy is not the best. Also the cost of living in Hawaii is among the highest in the United States, with high costs for food, gas, building materials, and housing. According to the Council for Community and Economic Research, Hawaii has by far the highest cost of living of all states in the United States.
At of the beginning of 2021, Hawaii’s cost of living index was 196.3, which means that the cost of living in Hawaii is 96.3% higher than the U.S. average. The housing index was 336.3, not surprising since the median sales prices of single-family homes on Oahu were nearing $1,000,000 as of May 2021. Also included in the cost-of-living index is grocery, utilities, and transportation costs, of which Hawaii ranks near the highest in all categories.
Cost of Living Index
In summary, Hawaii’s economy is not stellar, and the cost of living is high. However, working from home in Hawaii with a high paying U.S. Mainland or international company salary might make the cost of paradise a viable option. Also if more people with high paying jobs move to Hawaii to work remotely, this may gradually shift Hawaii’s economy in a more positive direction – especially since there currently are only a few limited industries in Hawaii.
If you plan on working remotely in Hawaii, you might wonder what people typically do for work in Hawaii? On the isolated Hawaiian Islands, there are only a few main industries which employ the majority of Hawaii’s residents.
Tourism is the largest industry in Hawaii by far. Although COVID-19 slowed travel, tourism in Hawaii is recovering. In the first quarter of 2019, there were 10,387,000 visitors to Hawaii, and in the first quarter of 2021, there were 6,637,000, according to data from the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism. In both years, tourism generated over $95,045 million dollars in gross domestic product.
After tourism, the United States military also is a large part of the Hawaii economy, with military installations for the Air Force, Army, National Guard, Marines, and Coast Guard on Oahu. The federal government supplies nearly 35,000 civilian jobs in Hawaii and tens of thousands more jobs for all the military members who call Hawaii home.
Agriculture and fishing once were significant industries in Hawaii. However, they have declined over the years. Sugarcane and pineapple plantations were an important historical industry in Hawaii, causing Hawaii to be one of the most productive agricultural states in the nation. Now about 85 to 90 percent of Hawaii’s food is imported, according to data from the State of Hawaii, causing groceries to be expensive in Hawaii and food security to be a real threat, especially if the islands were to experience a natural disaster.
What are other important industries in Hawaii? Manufacturing of mostly construction materials, such as cement and steel, comprises around 2% of Hawaii’s gross domestic product. Power is another main industry in Hawaii, with Hawaii Electric Company or HECO, having a near monopoly on Oahu. Hawaii has a variety of power sources and continues to shift more toward renewable energy, including geothermal, solar, and wind energy.
Here are the top industries in Hawaii, according to data from the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, as of the second quarter of 2021:
Number of Jobs
Health Care & Social Assistance
Professional & Business Services
Food Services & Drinking Places
Natural Resources, Mining, Construction
Working remotely in Hawaii can add a variety of new industries to the economy. In fact, there have been some incentive programs to bring remote workers to Hawaii, even offering free flights and professional connections among other Hawaii remote workers. Many Hawaii residents and government officials advocate for strengthening Hawaii’s economy by adding more economic sectors, and remote workers might be able to offer one of the solutions to Hawaii’s struggling economy.
Do you want to boost Hawaii’s economy and diversify its main industries by working remotely in paradise? Before you pack up your office and move to paradise, read through our top three tips to make the transition to working remote in Hawaii easier.
Ensure you have strong Internet and cell phone connectivity. Since some people still picture residents of Hawaii living in grass shacks, some people might wonder, ‘How is the Internet in Hawaii? And what about cell phone service?’
Being connected is the key to success in remote work, so it is important to live in a location with strong Internet connection. While there are a number of Hawaii Internet providers, Hawaii is ranked in the middle when compared to other U.S. states for access to broadband. Fiber-optic Internet is also available in Hawaii as well as mobile hotspots. However, do not expect all areas of Hawaii to have access to Internet or even cell phone service. Around certain bends of roads or deep into the forest or even in some remote parts of Maui or the Big Island, it will be more difficult to connect. Honolulu has strong connectivity throughout, so that might be a safe place to call the office when working remotely in Hawaii.
After considering Hawaii time differences, create a schedule and stick to it. The lure of relaxing on the beach or hiking in the mountains may make it difficult to focus on computer work; however making a schedule along with daily goals can assist in staying focused. And after the work day is done, the beach will await.
Before you create your Hawaii remote work schedule, also think about the time differences from your home office or your clients. What is the time difference between New York and Honolulu? New York is six hours ahead. What is the time difference between California and Hawaii? California is three hours ahead. You might have to wake up earlier to arrive to virtual meetings on time if you work remotely in Hawaii. On the plus side, you might be done with work earlier – just in time to catch some surf. In Hawaii, the typical work day is from around 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., earlier than the typical 9 to 5 of the U.S. Mainland, so working earlier is typically normal in Hawaii.
Take breaks to boost your productivity. When working from home, it is easier to get caught in the rut of work, work, work without breaks since you do not necessarily have co-workers around to join for a cup of coffee. It is important to take your regularly scheduled breaks, including lunch and standing up every hour to get your blood moving. Even a micro-break of 10 second with a stretch can help to refocus and boost energy.
Since the computer screen sometimes seems to suck remote workers in, you may need to set a timer to remind you of break time. Alternatively setting a timer can motivate some people to complete a certain task by a certain time, which is important since working remotely needs a lot of self-motivation.
With more and more remote work options available at more employers worldwide, the dream of working remotely in Hawaii might come to fruition for some lucky folks. Hawaii remote work has the potential to boost the local economy and diversify industries. If remote work is an option for you and you can find a reliable place to connect and can create a solid schedule, Hawaii welcomes new workers to join in on the island lifestyle.
Discover 5 pet-friendly condos in Honolulu.
Paradise comes at a cost. Learn why and how to save.
Can I invest and rent an Airbnb home in Hawaiʻi?
18% of Hawaiʻi's energy comes from solar. Learn why.
Understand Hawaii's public and private school systems.
Terminology is key to understanding Hawai‘i's real estate game.