Big cities have long been the epicentres of opportunity, with those who sought to forge their careers leaving rural and suburban areas to forge ahead with the 9-to-5 in the city. London has been proof of this; prior to 2020, the capital typically saw annual population growth related to productivity each year. Simply stated, people typically came to big cities like London for work opportunities,
In the past year and a half, however, the concept of needing to be in a big city to work has been somewhat upended. As the government has instructed people to work from home if they are able to do so, city centres have gone quiet with many of those who perform professional jobs working remotely. In the past year, people have been able to successfully remain productive in their ‘big city’ jobs from remote locations.
It’s looking increasingly as though remote working will continue to be part of our new normal. To illustrate the practical consequences of this, a recent analysis of London’s labour market data shows that remote work may shift over 800,000 jobs out of London. The analysis found that a significant number of workers (41%) are able to do their work outside of the office. If remote working continues and becomes a mainstay in how we work, this could lead to a shift in where people live and how employers hire.
Add to this the fact that the World Economic Forum states that remote work (at least in hybrid form) is likely to stay for the long-term and there now becomes a reorganisation at the corporate level, which changes how organisations source talent, hire and manage teams.
Employees and employers both benefit from remote working
As governments make plans to bring people back to physical workplaces following the phase-out of lockdown restrictions, many employees are crying out for some form of remote working to continue.
An extreme example of this has been an uptick in people saying they will quit their jobs rather than go back to working five days per week in person, in an on-site location. It is clear that remote working has been a big hit with employees, who have been able to gain many personal benefits from it.
Several notable benefits of remote working for employees include the ability to avoid lengthy, exhausting commutes and the ability to live outside of cities, in areas with a lower cost of living (and perhaps cleaner air!). Young professionals save money by living outside of city centres, while older employees with families enjoy the flexibility of being able to live in greener spaces with their young children. All employees cite the value to the quality of life when time is saved not having to commute.
While such welcome benefits of remote working have been widely documented for employees, employers also see significant benefits to remote working. In addition to the cost savings associated with an off-site workforce, a key benefit of remote working is that it helps widen the talent pool beyond the remit of the city.
Limitless talent pool
In the UK, the government guidance around returning to work is set to change in the coming months. Yet many companies are taking employees’ appetite for remote work into consideration. In fact, many firms will not ask employees to return to the office full-time after the government guidelines change but rather will allow them to continue to work remotely for much of their time, with in-office time-limited to one or several days.
For employers, remote work also has many positives. In addition to saving on overhead such as commercial office space, remote work also allows companies to think outside the box when it comes to hiring. By allowing their employees to work remotely on a more permanent basis, it also means that companies can widen their hiring pool outside of their immediate area. This removes many limitations to hiring top talent.
For example, imagine being the HR Director of a London startup, knowing that now you aren’t limited to hiring UX designers based in London, but can tap into talent pools across the country.
Thanks to remote work, this means that employers can create a distributed workforce composed of the best talent available — regardless of where employees are based. As employers seek to compete in the marketplace, developing distributed teams that work remotely allows companies to bring onboard the best talent, even if that talent is physically many miles away from their office.
Boosting employment outside of big cities
Remote working can also help boost employment in other regions of the country. In fact, job advertisements for remote roles have doubled in the past year. With remote quickly becoming a new normal with staying power, it means there may be a shift in employment percentages around the country.
With government leaders seeking to boost employment around the entire country — not just in city centres — remote working provides a way to increase employment more broadly. The ramifications of this can be very positive, bringing economic boosts to areas that typically may not have been innovation or business hubs. Nevertheless, if the talent is there, the (remote) jobs will follow.
Reimagining how we work
These statistics and figures we are seeing around the lasting power of remote work following the Covid-19 pandemic should give employees and employers alike a boost of confidence. Indeed, things are changing, but in ways that benefit both sides — and the national economy at large.
When companies are able to hire for talent and are not limited by geography, suddenly the shape of teams and companies is reimagined. Diverse, highly skilled teams can be developed and a new working world in which everyone — employers, employees, big cities, small towns alike — stands to gain.