Foreword by the CEO, Jonathan Merry
The national lockdown enforced by the British government during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to adopt a company-wide, work-from-home policy. This unprecedented action saw a meteoric shift in attitude towards a higher level of acceptance for employees working from home.
In many ways, it was a giant behavioral experiment where companies had to trust their employees to work effectively, and employees had to adapt and demonstrate that they were able to work in this environment full-time. For many, it was a success.
This left many economic leaders to question whether COVID-19 will kill the office. The big experiment also raised many other grand questions. With many working from home for an extended period of time, many naturally questioned whether they could be rid of their commutes, large rents, or mortgages for good, and instead, live and work from somewhere else. 63% of the general public thought this to be precise.
The younger generation was more fervent about this idea and as much as 22% of Londoners have also considered leaving. The interesting questions lie in the future - where does this leave the traditional office? How will businesses structure their corporations, will London see a diaspora, and where does that leave the housing market home and abroad? We ultimately believe that this experience will provide the public with more freedom to live and work remotely, with digital being at the forefront of this movement.
In April 2020, 46.6% of people in employment did some work at home– 80% of whom did so due to the coronavirus pandemic. Rapidly, businesses were forced to adapt to a new way of working. Offices were out, and working from home was officially in.
As lockdown restrictions ease, the possibility to return to the office environment looks likely to return in some form - but has public opinion towards remote working shifted?
The team at MoneyTransfers.com decided to look into the impact coronavirus has had on the attitudes of employees currently working remotely, and how many people have considered living elsewhere should flexible working remain in the future.
63% of employees would consider the possibility of living elsewhere and continuing to work remotely in the future
75% of Gen Z and 70% of millennials have considered a move if remote working was an option, compared to just 54% of Gen X and 46% of Baby Boomers
A better quality of life is the driving reason employees have considered elsewhere
74% of employees surveyed would opt to stay in the UK to work remotely over living abroad
Missing friends and family would be a key reason for women choosing not to live elsewhere, whilst the cost of moving is a bigger factor for men
Our findings were drawn from a sample of 2,000 employed adults currently working remotely or flexibly conducted by OnePoll. OnePoll is a polling agency that specialises in intelligent research, and are members of ESOMAR.
To ensure the data we've collected is relevant, all respondents were confirmed to be working remotely or flexibly for an accurate reflection of remote workers and their attitudes to flexible working.
Most People Having Considered Living Elsewhere if Remote Working Continued to be Available
To get an insight into the overall attitude respondents had towards remote working, we wanted how many employees had considered moving elsewhere if the availability of remote working continued in the future.
This question immediately set a clear and very telling baseline for the survey. The large majority of responses indicated that most people want remote working to be here to stay and that they would consider moving if it is - especially if current employers are on board too.
We found that 35.4% of respondents have considered the possibility of living elsewhere and working remotely in the future, while a further 27.6% would consider the same thing should their employer grant them permission. Breaking down those answers, 68% of men said yes they have considered moving elsewhere if remote working continued to be available, compared to 50% of women.
The number of 'yes' responses runs parallel to the age brackets we polled respondents in. 75% of Gen Z and 70% of millennials had considered a move, whereas just 54% of Gen X and 46% Baby Boomers responded yes. This data could indicate that there is a move in attitudes towards traditional working patterns in the younger generations, with more younger people prioritising a work/life balance and dependence on technology to work as opposed to physical workplaces.
Interestingly, 37% of employees have not considered living elsewhere and working remotely. This could reflect the opinions of employees unable to complete their job to as high as degree when working remotely, but could also be a reflection of the minority of people who find working from home lonely or less productive, as studies have shown.
Overall, however, we can conclude that the large majority of employees would want remote working to remain an option and have put some thought into moving elsewhere if that was an option - suggesting that the traditional office landscape may be likely to change altogether in the future if employers share the same attitudes.
Working Remotely for a Better Quality of Life
COVID-19 may be the reason so many people are adapting to working from home right now, but is it the reason the majority of people have considered continuing to work remotely - and the possibility of moving elsewhere if that was an option?
It seems not. In fact, COVID-19 was second only to Brexit as the least popular motivation for considering moving elsewhere - indicating that although the global pandemic forced this shift in work patterns, there's a myriad of positive opportunities remote working can open the door to.
In this multiple-answer question, 52% of respondents confirmed they had thought about moving elsewhere for a better quality of life, with the second most popular reason being the ability to work remotely (48% of respondents) followed by the cost of living. For the 18-24 demographic, however, the ability to work remotely was the most popular reason for considering working directly.
It's possible that while remote working itself offers a better work/life balance for some (for example, working from home is predicted to save most Londoners 23.5 hours per year in travel time), the possibility to move elsewhere as a result of flexible working also offers a number of additional motivations that can be all be classed under 'better of quality of life' - such as lower costs of living, cheaper housing, and a more peaceful routine.
The research could therefore be interpreted to suggest that without the pressure to live close to a physical office, more people would be open to living elsewhere for a better quality of life (lower living costs, more open spaces, better weather etc).
Perhaps more surprising is that COVID-19 is less of a motivation for considering moving elsewhere, with just 16% of respondents citing this as a reason. Arguably, the removed need to commute on public transport and socialise with colleagues throughout the day already lowers the risk of coming into contact with others and contracting COVID-19, so there's less need to consider moving elsewhere purely to stay safe from the coronavirus.
Location, Location, Location
Remote working offers a higher level of freedom when it comes to where employees are working from (quarantine measures not withstanding). If flexible working becomes the norm for the majority of employers, we were interested to see if we're likely to see a spike in expats to foreign countries or digital nomads opting to live abroad and work online.
Interestingly, however, the overwhelming majority of employees would remain in the UK if they were to move elsewhere, with just 11.5% wanting to move abroad. This answer was relatively consistent across all age brackets, with around 75% of each category selecting that they would remain in the UK.
68% of Gen X and 69% of Baby Boomers would stay in the UK - which suggests that although less of the older generations have considered moving elsewhere due to the availability of remote working, among those who have, they are more reluctant to living abroad than the younger age brackets.
In addition, London actually received the most votes as the location respondents would move to across all age brackets - although notably, a larger percentage of women voted to move to the South West or the South East than men, 28.7% of whom would move to the capital.
This tells us that while most people have considered moving elsewhere and continuing to work remotely, moving away from densely populated areas doesn't seem to be a high priority. However, with 21.6% of respondents living in London, the popularity of the Capital and surrounding areas could merely be attributed to this factor.
Of those interested in living abroad to work remotely, Spain was the most popular choice by some margin, particularly with the 35 - 34 age demographic. For the Gen Z demographic, English-speaking countries were more popular, with Australia followed by the US being the most popular choices.
Known for being an extremely popular destination with expats, it's no wonder that Spain was high up on the list here. Statistics from the ONS in 2017 revealed that of the estimated 784,900 British expats living in the EU, the largest portion (37%) living in Spain.
No Urgency to Move Quickly
Adjusting to a global pandemic has meant that for many, formerly straight-forward travel planning now requires serious forethought. Travel abroad to some locations is impossible unless you're willing to quarantine for at least two weeks after your return, while others require stringent testing before, during, and after a trip.
With that in mind, we wanted to look into the current attitudes towards moving around and for those who would consider living elsewhere to work remotely, what time frame they have in mind.
29% of respondents would be looking to move elsewhere either by the end of 2021 or after, with the majority (45%) looking to move in the next 12, 6, or 3 months. While a quarter of respondents were unsure either way, the data shows that for many, the coronavirus pandemic may not be enough of a deterrent to prevent moving elsewhere in the near future.
We also found that men seemed to be more likely to consider moving in the immediate future (18.3% of male respondents would want to move within the next three months), while female respondents trended more towards waiting until after 2021 (17.5%) or at least by the end of 2021 (15.7%). This data implies that there may be different motivations for moving elsewhere between male and female respondents.
Friends and Family Have A Big Impact Moving Choices
In 2019, the median distance moved in the UK was 9 miles, with 40% of movers opting to stay within a 5-mile radius of their previous home. This suggests that for many movers, factors like a larger property is a bigger motivation for moving compared to major lifestyle changes.
This is reflected in the results, with 41.9% of respondents (majority women, 25+) selecting missing their family and friends as a main reason for not wanting to move away from their existing home, with the cost of moving being the second most popular reason (men, 18-25).
Interestingly, factors such as Brexit and COVID-19 were not high on the list of reasons that might deter employees from moving elsewhere. Just 12.5% cited COVID-19 as a possible reason, and only 8% selecting Brexit as a possible reason for not moving.
Remote working will most likely be the new norm, post pandemic, and this will ultimately create some challenges for both the company and the employee. Property managers, in particular, is one type of job which had to come up with new ways of collaborating with clients. This guide gives a great overview of tools that can help navigate these new circumstances.