Coronavirus: Could London jobs go nationwide? – BBC News - Freelance Rack

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Coronavirus: Could London jobs go nationwide? – BBC News

Hannah Claytor-Scott Image copyright Hannah Claytor-Scott
Image caption Hannah Claytor-Scott hopes more remote working will see London employers look beyond the capital

The coronavirus lockdown saw countless workers move out of offices and remote working become the norm. So will costly office space in the capital become a thing of the past? And could regional workers get a long-awaited chance to go for a London-based career without the expense?

Hannah Claytor-Scott admits that, in the past, she has felt drawn towards job-searching in the capital.

“When I was younger, I wanted to move there because there were so many interesting opportunities and I felt a kind of pull to what it offered culturally,” she said.

Hannah, 29, is now happily settled in Newcastle-upon-Tyne where she works as a digital consultant. Her job normally takes her to London once or twice a month.

“I love travelling there,” she said. “When I first started I really enjoyed it and I took the opportunity to go and see friends but the more you do it, the more tiring it gets.

“If I were considering career options, I would want to look at opportunities in London but see if I could negotiate something more flexible.

“For people in this area, I think the ideal mix would be the opportunities London offers with the affordable lifestyle on offer in the north-east. I would much rather live up here.”

Image copyright Hannah Claytor-Scott
Image caption Hannah hopes home-working may help the UK retain talented people in the regions

Hannah says some of her friends have grown frustrated while job-hunting as a result of so many opportunities being concentrated in London.

“Some have even considered going abroad so they can maintain a similar lifestyle and get the kind of opportunities on offer in London without the cost,” she said.

“Obviously, not every industry would have the flexibility of home-working but I would hope it could have a positive impact if more people of a high calibre were happy to stay in the regions, that could only be a good thing.”

Image copyright Matt Blackwell
Image caption Matt Blackwell spent two years commuting 200 miles between Leicester and London

Matt Blackwell spent two years making the 200-mile trip between his home in Leicester and his job in London, five days a week.

When he became a sub-editor for a digital media company in 2016, he lacked the financial stability to move to the capital.

“I didn’t have too much choice. Commuting was the only viable option,” said Matt, 30.

“One of the biggest and most obvious negatives was the cost. An annual season ticket cost £9,000, which had to be paid upfront.

“My company covered the cost but I lost £750 from my salary each month in repayments.”

Image copyright Matt Blackwell
Image caption Matt has now settled in London after years of commuting there

Another negative, which Matt says he did not immediately consider, was the knock-on effect on his quality of life.

“I would be out of the house from 07:30 to 20:00 every day, which meant I rarely had the time or energy for socialising outside of work. My evenings generally consisted of eating dinner and getting an early night, ready for the 06:00 alarm the next day.”

Matt eventually moved to London in 2018 – he says he misses his family in the Midlands but feels “much happier”.

However, he says it is “definitely frustrating” that people in some professions feel they have no alternative than to move – or commute – to London.

“In order to progress in certain industries, such as media and finance, I feel like you have to be in London because that’s where the opportunities are,” he said.

“I think one good thing to come out of the current situation is that companies are starting to realise that ‘business as usual’ doesn’t necessarily mean everyone has to be in one place all of the time.

“Work can take place as usual pretty much anywhere where there’s a decent Wi-Fi connection. Location shouldn’t hold anyone back from following their chosen career path.”

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Image copyright David Pentz
Image caption Single dad David Pentz says his daughter Lotus, 11, is enjoying having him around more

Working from home has saved single dad David Pentz a four-hour commute. The digital marketing director used to get up at 04:30 every morning and drive from Brackley in Northamptonshire to his company’s office in the capital.

He and his colleagues have been told they won’t be back there until at least 2021 and his hope is that once they are, he will only have to go in once or twice a week.

But, he but believes working in a London office will still be essential to his job.

“We’ve been so busy and generating lots of business without being in the office,” he said. “[But] I don’t know if the London bubble has ended. I don’t think it has – I think it’s always going to have an office culture.”

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Many people look to the resources and opportunities on offer in the capital, David Pentz says

Regional politicians suggest otherwise. Ged Bell, Newcastle City Council’s cabinet member for employment, believes London is becoming “less relevant”.

“With a larger number of people working from home, bigger corporate firms are looking to ditch expensive office space and are contemplating a much larger talent pool,” he said.

Mark Oakley, Leicester City Council’s director of inward investment, said he hopes there will be more opportunities for people who don’t want to commute or relocate.

“It’s clear that there will be changes to the way people work that could see wealth and opportunity more fairly distributed around the country,” he said.

Image copyright David Baird
Image caption Will Rossiter believes it’s too early to say if increased home working will enable a jobs redistribution

However, business experts urge caution.

Will Rossiter, Nottingham Business School’s associate professor of regional policy and development, believes “it’s too early to say” how lockdown will affect businesses.

“We are shaping up to see a recession [which] tend to bear hardest on the most disadvantaged places. There will certainly be some firms wondering if they need expensive city centre offices,” he said.

“And there is a lot of interest in the extent to which the experience of home-working will operate in the future. It’s certainly possible some large organisations will think about the way they are organised in future.

“It’s just hard to know how these trends will play out. I doubt a bit of remote working would go far enough to change what caused the North-South divide in the first place, such as the shift away from heavy industries.”

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