Posted on: 2nd November 2021
Reading time: 4 mins
Across the world, the trend over the last 100 years or so has been for people to move from the countryside into – or close to – cities in order to work. A clear example of this is in China, where the change has happened rapidly and recently as it transitions away from an economy based on agriculture, to one that is centred around technology and urbanisation. With farmland and rural lodgings replaced by sprawling megacities and high-rise towers, in 2013 it was reported by The New York Times that about 250 million people would be moving from the countryside to cities by 2025.
Since the pandemic, the rise of hybrid working – where employees can work from a combination of home, a local flexspace and a company HQ– the necessity to work five days a week from a city is no longer there. The ability to work from anywhere means people don’t have to worry about paying high rents and mortgages within cities so they are close to their company HQ, or commuting every day from the suburbs.
In the USA, IWG and Arup forecast that almost 200,000 white-collar workers could potentially move out of cities over the coming years, creating up to $1.3bn in spending in suburban and rural locations. While in Germany, IWG expects up to 38,600 full-time workers to relocate from urban centres.
This realisation has meant that towns and villages nationwide are no longer emptying out on weekdays as people go to work. People are working local to where they live and in some cases commuting part-time. As can be seen from rising property prices in some more rural and coastal areas, there is also an ongoing exodus of people relocating from cities because they realise that in doing so they can have a healthier, happier lifestyle. The spin-off effect is that job opportunities and economic prospects outside of cities are going up.
Thinking like a local
According to Regus parent company IWG, the suburban shift that is taking place will lead to the rise of the ‘Model Village’ – a place where residents have access to everything they need to live and work, from restaurants and schools to bookshops and coworking spaces. A study from IWG says that the provision of local flexspaces for professionals in these microcosms “can generate economic impacts for suburbs, towns, and villages through directly creating jobs and inducing knock-on impacts from the additional footfall of white-collar workers who work in these spaces.”
As many companies realise that they no longer have to take out their own leases on office space but can instead rely on access to shared serviced offices, there is a huge opportunity for lowering overheads and building a distributed workforce that no longer needs to be tethered to a city. This, in turn, creates new job openings in towns and villages that wouldn’t otherwise have been there – not just for staff in new coworking spaces, as well as for wider support (such as marketing and finance), but for companies that are looking to expand regionally.
“We are seeing previously dormant towns and villages come back to life,” says Mark Dixon, Founder and CEO of IWG. “With hundreds more rural and suburban flexible working locations expected to open in the coming years, we expect a wide range of vibrant local communities to develop with thriving businesses at their heart.”
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