Over half of British professionals would relocate to a rural area if they could still perform their role to the same level
Apr 25, 2016
London, UK – A new Citrix and techUK report, launching today, shows that the UK urban housing crisis is being exacerbated by professionals seeking career success, with the majority of workers (59 per cent) adamant that there is greater potential of securing employment in large cities.
The Housing Crisis: a digital solution examines YouGov online research into the expectations of 1,243 UK knowledge workers – those that can work flexibly - around how their location impacts the opportunity to secure work and succeed in their career.
This massive burden on large cities could be significantly reduced by allowing workers to work remotely, as over half of British workers (54 per cent) stated they would be likely to relocate to a rural area if they could still perform their role to the same level. However, while many workers would relocate if they could, connectivity, transport and corporate culture were all cited as challenges to achieving this.
Other findings include:
Large cities are a magnet to those seeking professional success
Confirming a long standing perception amongst UK workers, over half of respondents (59 per cent) think that they have better potential for securing employment in large cities, while half (48 per cent) also believe that that living in a large city has a positive effect on career opportunities and progression.
A greater number of employers, better career progression and more networking opportunities to meet useful contacts were all cited as reasons for this (76 per cent, 71 per cent, and 62 per cent, respectively).
These opinions reflect the Adonis Growth Review, which indicated that as many as 96 percent of the net private sector jobs which have been added to the economy since 2010 were in city regions. This is a reminder of the sheer dominance of large cities for securing work and successfully progressing careers. This trend ultimately contributes significantly to the urban population and the strain of its resources and infrastructure.
Technology enables decentralised working patterns
The traditional corporate working culture creates significant geographical barriers – ring-fencing professionals into large cities – which ultimately puts pressure on its infrastructure. Indeed, 54 per cent of British workers living away from rural areas indicated that they would relocate to a rural area if they could still perform their role to the same level.
Technology holds massive potential to enable this, with 56 per cent of workers claiming that creating a digitally connected society is crucial to helping people progress in their careers wherever they are located, highlighting the importance of superfast broadband and mobile connectivity for all. These findings demonstrate how with many British towns bursting at the seams, government and industry must look to technological investments to alleviate the burden on cities, while also increasing the British workforce by engaging those who live rurally.
Challenges to decentralised working patterns
While there are clear socio-economic benefits of decentralising working patterns, there remain three key challenges that government and industry must first overcome: connectivity, transport and corporate culture.
- Connectivity - Ultrafast Internet speeds are essential to ensure those that work at home are as productive as their onsite colleagues. But good speeds are widely perceived as a perk of living in a large city (38 per cent), which is unsurprising with Ofcom reporting that 48 per cent of rural premises are still unable to receive broadband speeds above 10Mbit/s.
- Transport - Businesses have lamented how poor transport links make it more difficult to attract investment and talent. This was echoed by many workers who cited increased travel links both rurally and in urban areas as an important factor to help people succeed in their career (46 per cent and 38 per cent respectively). Improving transport links and providing robust WiFi or 4G connectivity on public transport will be important to ensure that rural workers have convenient and reliable access to cities when they are needed in corporate headquarters – and remain productive throughout their journey.
- Corporate culture – Despite recent legislation, a quarter of organisations still carry out all work on the company premises, with 35 per cent of workers not confident that even in a change of circumstance would their employer provide, pay and train them to use the necessary technology to continue doing their job. Calling an end to the corporate culture of ‘face time’ and evaluating all employees solely on their output will be essential for a successful flexible working programme. While organisations must also ensure that all employees have the necessary digital skills to take up this opportunity, and offer training where they don’t.
 Citrix (2016) The Housing Crisis: a digital solution
 Adonis Growth Review: Mending the Fractured Economy
 Ofcom Connected Nation report 2015
 Adonis Growth Review: Mending the Fractured Economy
 Lancaster University’s Work Foundation: Working anywhere: a winning formula for good work?
With pressure mounting on major cities and the urban population increasing, it is clear that the government and industry must look to intelligent solutions to relieve this problem. There is no good reason why career success and living rurally should remain mutually exclusive, and if we can bring to an end the necessary migration to large cities for professional success, we have the potential to redistribute economic growth across the UK – supporting our rural communities and growing our talented workforce to also include those who can’t afford or don’t wish to live in large cities. - Jacqueline de Rojas, Area Vice President, Northern Europe, Citrix
Connectivity is key to sharing the benefits of digital across the UK. Ensuring all workers and all businesses have the connectivity they need is a key part of solving the productivity puzzle. Applying this connectivity to where people are – be it at home, in the office, or on a train – must remain an urgent priority for government and industry if we’re to retain our position as a world leading digital economy. - Matthew Evans, Executive Director, techUK
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