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Zooming to rural living resurgence?

Updated: Apr 28, 2020

In the current climate, many office workers will have experienced working from home for the first time. However, the joys of self motivation and easy distraction mixed with childcare is the norm for many people in rural areas.

The modern rural economy isn’t just farmers in the 21st century, according to the House of Lords rural strategy published last spring, farming makes up just over 15% of the economy, a figure equal to professional and technical services.

As we reach the peak of the current phase of the Coronavirus outbreak in the UK, our leaders are beginning to discuss how to exit the measures put in place by the Government.

First out of the blocks are the Scottish Government a with their take on removing restrictions. It seems social distancing is to be a part of our lives for many months to come as the measures are slowly removed over many months.

The Scottish First Minister gave us a clue to how this will come about with reference to redesigning schools and other public buildings so that we are not as close to each other as we were. Indeed, we hear today from manufacturers such as Nissan and Rolls Royce who are creating systems in the workplace to allow production to recommence while keeping our distance.

City firms will be redesigning their workspace with more room between desks and meeting spaces and cafes will accommodate the overspill of desks as Zoom meetings remain the norm. There still won’t be room for everyone, so home working will become the new norm for part of the working week. My mater Dan says that he expects his London based PR Firm to be increasing home working as a result of this, and put expansion plans on hold.

Another friendly Chris has been doing this for years now, he is based in Penrith only 15 minutes from Lake Ullswater, with its rugged mix of watersports, fell walking and "Apres-Lakes"(it's like Apres Ski but in a Lakeland Pub). Yet, he works for Lancaster University over an hours drive south and has regular contracts in London and elsewhere. He’s what I call a Metro-Bumpkin, the modern day professional who has his City- slicker cake and eats it in his rural idyll.

Could this be the new norm? Is it possible that your end of year meeting with the accountant could be held by Zoom halfway up Scafell? It’s difficult to predict exactly, but given the chance I’m sure many will jump at the chance to run a double life as they move into that phase where you settle down and have kids. Who wouldn’t want to bring up a family in the countryside with its outdoor life and great schools?

There has been a huge exodus of working age people from rural areas, according to Cumbria County Council the decrease in 15-29 year olds in Cumbria is -2% per year and the increase in 75-84 year olds is +2%. Maybe, just maybe, this new way of working could be the beginning of a renaissance for rural living. It will need investment in infrastructure and housing, but this could just be the change that we need in the UK to rebalance the economy, not only from the south to the north, but also from the city to the countryside.

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