Rise of the rural office
Rise of the rural office
Author: Aled Rhys Jones
I remember being given a business card about five or six years ago which I’ll never forget. Under ‘Address’ it simply said “anywhere where there’s Wi-Fi”. At first, I thought it was amusing but I soon realised that there was more to this. Covid-19 might get the blame (or praise) for turning the way we work upside down, but the foundations for change were laid long before.
Coffee shops with free Wi-Fi have long been a haven for professionals and freelancers as flexible work locations. For many, surrounding yourself in a busy environment where others are working can improve your productivity. Also, a different working environment encourages inspiration and stimulates new ideas. Over the past twelve months, we’ve all seen changes to our working environments. Some have relished the convenience of home working, while others have longed for the structure of the daily commute.
While the existence of remote communications technology has existed for years, it has taken a forced disruptive event such as Covid to push us over a confidence and familiarity threshold. I am sure that we are never fully comfortable with seeing our image on screen, but we’re far less put off by it now. And in future we will question more – “does this meeting need to be face-to-face?”.
I am confident much of this change would have happened anyway, with pressures to reduce travel in the fight against climate change etc. What Covid has done is accelerate the pace of the change.
So, as the light emerges at the end of a long and dark tunnel, there will be lasting changes in our approach to work. Not surprisingly, most remote workers don’t want to return to the office on a full-time basis. A combination of home and in-office work seems to be the answer. But work may well be in ‘an office’ as opposed to ‘the office’.
As large companies grapple with decisions over whether they still need their costly inner city office blocks, could a network of rural co-working hubs be the answer? A shared space for a broad range of business professionals could be a cost-effective and popular solution. For me, I have missed the creativity which sparks when you meet and work around others and I would jump at the chance of working in a contemporary rural office hub with other professionals.
Broadband speeds may be an issue in some areas but, if resolved, we could see a rise of the rural office and our hinterlands will be thriving with economic activity.
The use of technology has made us realise that (a) you can work from anywhere and (b) you can work for clients or companies anywhere. If you’re a company who embraces flexible working, you could recruit from a much larger pool of applicants and not be restricted to a geographical proximity to your office. Think of the opportunities. As a business owner, I’m excited about the prospect of offering my support services to clients all over the globe.