The Rise of Zoom Towers

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Oil and mineral discoveries once led to boomtowns; this exodus has spawned ‘Zoom towns’, regional communities near natural amenities, where remote workers can take advantage of a higher quality of life, with more disposable income than in traditional business hubs.

As remote working is seen in many cases an improved way of working “zoom towns” are popping up and in many cases being promoted by companies who also provide incentives for relocation to capitalise on this shift, luring outdoor-loving remote workers to their doorsteps (especially those in the STEM fields)

So why is this happening?

In the wake of the pandemic, “the intensity has increased in terms of that expectation; people are expecting more from companies. The early days of the pandemic reminded us that people are not machines”, (Alison Omens). “If you’re worried about your kids, about your health, financial insecurity and covering your bills, and all the things that come with being human, you’re less likely to be productive. And we were all worried about those things.”

Workers expected their employers to make moves to help alleviate, or at least acknowledge, those concerns – and companies that failed to do so have suffered. The study also showed that more than half of the respondents who were planning to quit wanted to do so because of a reduction in benefits, a worsening work-life balance, or a toxic workplace culture.

No matter where remote workers end up, the work-from-home structure has been normalised.

COVID has in a way changed everything, people started craving a little more nature and outdoor activity impacting how we now feel upon returning to the office vs the benefits experienced in a work-life hybrid environment.

People have now started to abandon the locations they were tied to only because of their jobs and are finding opportunities where the lifestyle shift has accelerated a job change. 

Stagnant wages, rising living costs, and daily commuting have found under 30’s to be most likely to move and make the change.

A PwC survey found that more than half of all office workers —55%— would like to work remotely three days a week or more, and fewer than one in five employers want to return to the office as it was before.

An overarching policy expecting everyone to return to work as pre-COVID signals those leaders are trying to get back to the “old ways of working”, rather than adapting a “purposeful presence” mindset.

Leaders need to be clear on why employees need to return to the office and to be specific about why a hybrid working model is needed where personal presence fits in the organisations broader vision and strategy. Leaders must acknowledge the impact that the return to office has on work-life and go one step further to highlight what the organization will do to support employees in navigating both.

Acknowledgements Alison Omens

BBC Worklife McKinsey & Company PwC Written by Taylor Clarke Associate Consultant Alex Wilson