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Rural life and the work from home revolution

Green AcresSome of you may remember a T.V. sitcom called Green Acres. The show starred Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor as a couple who moved from New York City to a country farm. The show aired from 1965 to 1971. Some of you are not familiar with the show at all, but others now have that theme song stuck in your head. The character Oliver Douglas was played by Albert. He wanted to move away from the rat race in New York City and take up a rural farming life. Oliver’s wife was less fond of the idea and reluctantly goes along with the plan, but does not leave her “sophisticated” city ways behind. Oliver is enthused about taking up the task of living off the land, although the work clothes of his past life remain — he continues to wear a three-piece suit for laboring on his farm. The show took a comical and exaggerated look at differences between city and country folk. So, how does a sitcom from decades ago relate to the worlds of business, finance, and the new work from home revolution?

Work from home is becoming a new normal

As State, Local and Federal governments forced businesses to close — or at least alter the way they conduct business — due to the COVID-19 virus, innovation has accelerated. The terms “rural revitalization”, “the stay-at-home economy”, and “the work from home revolution” are terms that we’ll be hearing over and over again. We will likely see that working from home, in fact, becomes a permanent way of doing business.

Working from Home with Laptop and CoffeeLeaving the big city life behind?

The work from home revolution may result in those who have been dreaming of a quieter life in the country working to make that a reality. While some enjoy it, I envision that people who live in large cities do often seek opportunities to get away from urban areas. The necessity of conducting business from a variety of locations has accelerated some technologies that, without an economic shut down, may have taken many years longer. The forced experiment has yielded some impressive results, and the ability to work and meet with others remotely has become easier.

Will the demand for office space in big cities decline? I think it could; the rent in big cities is expensive. If an employer can pay for an employee’s internet and other office essentials at a cost far below the per square foot rental cost without losing production, why wouldn’t this be a good option? What about commutes? The average commute to work can take up a large chunk of a worker’s day. Reducing or eliminating this commute is a great perk.  What about businesses that serve high capacity office spaces? With fewer people to serve, these businesses would face additional challenges.

Working remotely may cause growth in rural areas

Rural areas — particularly those that offer easy access back to the city for an occasional trip back to the mothership — could see a large increase in population. Currently, real estate in the ‘burbs tends to be more affordable. For those working from home, a larger space that includes room for an office will be essential, equipped with appropriate technology in terms of hardware and software. As some have already discovered as well, some form of redundancy is a must; losing internet connection while making a business presentation is very different than losing a connection while solving the world’s problems on social media.

Think also about areas of the country that offer desirable climates. With the ability to work remotely, that warm climate home may be a few years closer for many. As travel restrictions relax, we will likely see those that now only need to be at the corporate office once or twice each month advance their purchase of a home in a warmer or more preferable climate by several years… and simply travel when needed.

Relaxing by a pondEmbracing the rural lifestyle

One more thing: If you do find yourself with more freedom to work remotely and thus moving to a more rural area, don’t be impatient with a slower life style — embrace it. In short, don’t be a “citiot”. If a north to south move seems like a good idea, you’re probably right; it has suited me well thus far. Although, I’ve only been here just shy of 40 years… so maybe it’s too soon to tell. (One last essential tip for the rural life: BBQ is a noun, not a verb.)

July 2020

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