Alpine Region Makes Push for Remote Jobs – finews.com - Freelance Rack

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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Alpine Region Makes Push for Remote Jobs – finews.com

Switzerland’s holiday regions are vying to entice disgruntled city natives to the mountains to work. finews.com on a prominent push in one of the highest valleys in Europe – backed by a group of wealthy financiers.

The Swiss Alps have long drawn domestic holiday-makers to the ski slopes. Now, several mountainous regions are bidding for bankers and other service industry employees to spend more of their time in the mountains, working.

The allure of a pre-work altitude climb or lunch-time schuss down the slopes would have been ludicrous several months ago. The pandemic, which sent an overwhelming majority of bankers home to work, changed all that: banks like UBS have relaxed previously rigid remote working policies for good.

Finance Bigwigs

That’s music to the ears of a group of Swiss financial heavyweights backing a Lord Norman Foster-designed innovation center and co-working space in La Punt. The village of 700, nestled at the foot of an alpine trade route that dates back to Roman times, is at the heart of a five-year-long bid to attract talent to Engadin.

Ex-Falcon Chairman Christian Wenger, media and retail millionaire Beat Curti, and CVC co-founder Steve Koltes are among those pouring millions into the project, which is scheduled for completion in 2022. La Punt is part of a raft of measures by officials in Engadin, an 80-kilometer-long Swiss valley whose temperate climate and beautiful landscapes have long drawn thrill-seekers and outdoor fanatics.

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Engadin’s efforts to win remote workers include infrastructure improvements, co-working spaces, and digitizing education. The region’s prospects of attracting more alpine escapists surged following the pandemic. 

«We’ve seen demand for hub space climb considerably, mainly from people working in sectors which until now were restrictive about remote working – that includes financial services,» Jon Erni, head of the Mia Engiadina association spearheading efforts, told finews.com. More than one-third of employees in Switzerland – 34 percent – don’t plan to go back, according to a mobility study by consulting firm Deloitte.

Part-Time Alpine Escape

The region in canton Graubuenden has long been favored by the who’s who of Swiss finance: Venture investor Tobias Reichmuth lives part-time in St. Moritz and in Zug, and Additiv business development chief Bert-Jan van Essen headed straight for Davos when he returned from a nearly ten-year stint in Asia, eschewing Zurich.

Engadin’s bid comes against the backdrop of renewed interest by Swiss residents for second homes in leisure regions, spurred by the coronavirus. «We see anecdotal evidence of more inquiries into prices for second homes. Activity there has definitely accelerated in some destinations,» said Robert Weinert, Zurich-based expert at real estate firm Wueest Partner.

Housing Price Rise?

It is too early for data to track any potential rise in prices for holiday homes as a result of this activity, he noted. Several regions – Valais, Laax Falera — are launching similar bids, but Engadine’s is by far the most ambitious. It is coupled with a years-long effort to upgrade the canton to fiberoptic internet service.

«I’m convinced it is a long-term trend and that, provided employers maintain current more expansive remote working policies, people will increasingly make use of it,» Erni said. On Running, which won financial backing from Roger Federer recently, will work from the space (co-founder Caspar Coppetti is also among the financial backers of the La Punt hub, pictured below)

Engadin La Punt Foster street view 500 copy

Engadin La Punt Foster street view 500 copy

 

(Image: visualization Foster + Partner)

The mountains have traditionally been a place of retreat, sport, and regeneration for the Swiss. An increased shift to alpine destinations for remote working blurs the lines between business and leisure, mirroring a trend in most workplaces.

«It makes sense to talk about life balance: work is a huge part of our lives and the boundaries are becoming more fluid. That’s something we need to learn to deal with, no matter where we are based,» said Erni. An ex-Microsoft executive and native of Graubuenden, Erni lives outside Zurich but maintains a second home in the alpine region.

Expanding Co-Work Space

In 2012, Swiss voters said yes to curbs on holiday-home growth – after hot spots like Verbier and Davos saw explosive growth in second residences. Government data doesn’t capture how many Swiss own a holiday home. These second homes make for at least one-fifth of total residencies at nearly 16 percent of Switzerland’s 2,222 municipalities, according to the most recent official spatial development data.

Mia Engiadina operates co-working spaces in three of the five towns which make up Scuol, including a space for one to two people in Ardez (population: 430 people), as well as atop Motta Naluns, a gateway to the region’s skiing area. The association doesn’t keep track of occupancy rates, but Erni said interest was high following the spaces’ reopening when lockdown restrictions eased.

Retirement Tax Perk

The remote working bid is tailored to bankers and other service industry staff, many of whom had already been moved out of pricey Paradeplatz office space to save money. Graubuenden has been less successful at attracting businesses themselves to the region (for example, efforts to position Chur as a tech hub foundered).

Graubuenden is already popular for Swiss residents who draw down their pension capital in one go – because it has a far lower tax rate for wealthy earners than, for example, Zurich’s comparatively high tax. Other cantons on the competitive end for high-earners are Valais, Schaffhausen, and Appenzell, according to calculations provided to finews.com by pension adviser Marcel Chevrolet.



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