Relocating ... from town to country

More than half of UK workers believe the pandemic will result in a “reverse brain drain” with professionals permanently moving their main place of work from cities to country regions, according to a new survey.

A remote house in the Lake District
Conducted by YouGov on behalf of global HR and recruitment firm Adecco, the survey "highlights the radical transformation of both working norms and locations as we move into the next normal, with top talent looking set to be redistributed across the country".

Hybrid working measures to retain talent

The survey of 1,003 workers across the UK found marked regional differences in attitudes towards town-versus-country working. Workers in London predicted the largest movement out of the city, with 57% believing many staff would no longer feel the need to live within commuting distance of top City firms.However, Adecco Group UK and Ireland said in a statement that this did not mean London organisations would lose out, because access to top talent within rural areas would be retained thanks to new, hybrid working measures.Adecco added, "Interestingly, only 42% of those in Wales and 46% of those in Scotland agreed that we would see a migration of top talent away from the big cities in the UK as a result of the pandemic."This again suggests that overall, while people may physically move out of cities, with the option to work in commercial hubs like Edinburgh, Cardiff and Birmingham, city firms will be able to retain talent rather than lose it."

"The social pull of working in a metropolis will continue to attract – especially young talent”

Alex Fleming, country head and president of the Adecco Group UK and Ireland, said that while UK cities would seek to reinvent themselves post-pandemic amid changing working patterns and preferences, city centres would undoubtedly remain a major attraction for top talent."Even if we do see people move out of the city, there will be many who relish the contrast between working from home and being in the office," he said.“We will always need places where companies and people come together to do business, to network with a range of diverse individuals and companies, and to learn from more experienced colleagues. The social pull of working in a metropolis will continue to attract – especially young talent.”

Opinions divided depending on economic sector

The survey also found a sharp divide in opinion in different sectors of the economy. Some 75% of those working in real estate favoured a shift to the regions, along with 61% in finance and accounting predict and 62% in media, marketing and advertising.However, only 43% of those who work in manufacturing and 42% in retail felt there would be an exodus of skills from cities in favour of regional living and remote working.“To ensure they retain and attract top talent, companies need to adapt their office environments, regardless of where they are based, to reflect the new age of hybrid working," said Mr Fleming."This means creating offices that are compelling places for employees to collaborate with colleagues and clients, and a hub for establishing and maintaining a strong company culture.”

IoD survey: 74% of firms plan to maintain increase in home working

Earlier this month, a survey of almost 1,000 firms by the Institute of Directors (IoD) found that 74% planned to maintain the increase in home working caused by the pandemic."Remote working has been one of the most tangible impacts of coronavirus on the economy. For many, it could be here to stay," said Roger Barker, director of policy at the IoD."Working from home doesn't work for everyone, and directors must be alive to the downsides. Managing teams remotely can prove far from straightforward, and directors must make sure they are going out of their way to support employees' mental wellbeing."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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