From our Swindon correspondent:
This is one of the bigger ones, although I have to watch my own biases here.
Changes in the way that offices work tend to move quite slowly, and they tend to start from startups and gradually get adopted by larger companies. Large companies are more risk averse because managers are covering their arse, following what is “normal” and there’s generally plenty of cash sloshing around. Startups are tighter on money and looking for how to not spend it. They’ll take more risks. They are incentivised to save money in a bigger way.
So startups have tended to be more accepting of people working from home. There’s benefits for startups. If you only have a few people using the office each day, you don’t need a lot of office space.
This also has effects on where your office has to be. Companies are often clustered. Computer companies in Silicon Valley, movie studios in Hollywood, Companies move there because that’s where the specialists are. But that also means that the specialists then move there because that;s where the companies are. There’s a large cluster of software companies in this country around Reading for this reason. It’s also meant that people trying to hire people to create software companies in say, Exeter, struggle to find people because they have less choice. People don’t want to be living in Exeter, find themselves unemployed and have to move for work.
But if you only expect people to come into the office once a fortnight, maybe someone in Swindon is OK with the 2 hour fortnightly trip to Exeter, especially they have 0 travel the rest of the time. So, a company can function in a much cheaper city like Exeter.
Startups and other employers have been doing this for some time. I had a client over in rural Cambridgeshire. Long trek but it didn’t matter. Many employers have been scared to try the remote work thing. The Covid-19 situation has forced them to try it. Many might find it’s sub-optimal for various reasons, but many will find that it works out well for them.
It seems to me that this could have a “rebalancing” effect on the economy. Location will still matter. No-one wants to fly down from Inverness to Bristol every fortnight. But, if location matters less, maybe it will help to spread the work around more.