As a result of the national lockdown enforced during the coronavirus pandemic, a large proportion of the UK public have begun working from home for the first time. However, from 1st August, the Government will no longer be asking people to work from home if possible, therefore leaving it to employers to decide when to ask staff to return to the office (if at all). At the same time, many employers have decided to continue to offer employees the option to work from home even as the lockdown measures ease.
With this context, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies asked in a recent poll to all respondents who were not retired whether they were considering moving and living somewhere else now that remote work is a possibility for many. We found that about a quarter of UK respondents are now considering moving and living somewhere else.
Respondents in London were the most likely to say they are considering a move; nearly a third (31%) of them said they are considering moving and living elsewhere. Many jobs are concentrated in London, particularly white-collar jobs that are likely to allow remote work. The lure of more affordable housing and green space elsewhere in the UK might be tempting many remote workers to make the move away from the capital. Searches for real estate in the suburbs have increased as people dream of larger houses, private gardens, and more green space. However, this change would not be without consequences, to say the least. For example, around a quarter of all office space in England and Wales is located in central London. What would happen to all these structures?
Across the UK, over a third (34%) of respondents aged 25 to 34-years-old said they are considering a move away from their current homes. This age group tends to have the most flexibility in deciding where to live, and they are also less likely than older age brackets to have school-aged children tying them down to a certain place. They are more likely to change jobs to advance their careers. Ability to work remotely can be an important consideration in this respect. Meanwhile, younger respondents, aged 18 to 24, may now attend university, so it is more difficult to move somewhere else, especially as some universities may open in the fall. Those over 34-years-old may have established families and careers, which are barriers to movement despite the option to work remotely.
Overall, while it remains to be seen if people will want to continue to work from home on a large scale if the coronavirus situation ameliorates, it is clear that many are now thinking about the new possibilities that working from home has created. Hence, workplaces may never go back to the way they once were, with a significantly positive effect on the bottom line of many employers and negative effects for those businesses who provide services to commuters and office workers.