COVID-19 has led to the upheaval of where people work. In April 2020, ‚’Work from Home‚’ (WFH) became the norm for over 45% of employed individuals. This is an unequivocal opportunity ‚’ and Government need to overcome challenges – to ensure this radical behavioural change is sustainable.
Why is this an opportunity?
1. The UK‚’s path to reach Net Zero by 2050 is predicated on fundamental behavioural changes, which includes where we work. The previous status quo fuelled demand for carbon-emitting transport, such as personal vehicles. Long-term change to ‚’WFH‚’ or ‚’remotely in your local vicinity‚’, could crucially lead to the reduction of unnecessary transport-related emissions.
2. Widening economic inequalities persist across the UK and are linked to employment opportunities. If socials norms on ‚’WFH‚’ shifted, this could ensure jobs do not dictate living locations. An individual who lived in London originally tied to an office location, could instead continue their work, but live and spend day-to-day in Jaywick. This could stimulate economic activity in ‚’left behind‚’ localities.
However, challenges may quash this opportunity:
1. For many workers ‚’ ‚’WFH‚’ is not attractive. Structural issues exist ‚’ such as limited space in a shared house and unreliable internet speeds ‚’ typically affecting the young and poorest. Most miss informal social interactions, which benefit mental health.
2. For employers ‚’ economic incentives to agglomerate and co-locate workers exist. The scales between costs versus benefits need to shift. Employers need to witness inspirational and successful examples. They need confidence workers can access alternative local infrastructure to ensure productivity does not diminish.
COVID-19 has expanded the ‚’Overton Window‚’ for promoting working remotely at home or locally. Government can actively promote these as new social norms, to help reach Net Zero and reshape opportunities across space.