Rise of the rural office

February 2021 | Rural policy, Featured

By Aled Rhys Jones, Founder of ON THE LAND

I remember being given a business card about five or six years ago which I’ll never forget. Under ‘Address’ it simply said “anywhere where there’s Wi-Fi”. At first, I thought it was amusing but I soon realised that there was more to this. Covid-19 might get blamed (or indeed praised) for turning the way we work upside down, but the foundations for change were laid long before.

Coffee shops with free Wi-Fi have long been a haven for professionals and freelancers alike, as flexible work locations. For many, being surrounded by a busy environment where others are working can improve productivity. A different work environment also encourages inspiration and stimulates new ideas. Over the past twelve months, we’ve all seen changes to our work environments. Some have relished the convenience of working from home, whilst others have longed for the structure of the daily commute.

While remote communication technology has existed for years, it has taken a forced, disruptive event such as Covid to push us over the confidence and familiarity threshold. I’m certain that we are never truly comfortable seeing our image on screen, but we’re far less put off by it now. And, in future, we will be more likely to question – “does this meeting really need to be face-to-face?”.

I am confident that much of this change would have happened anyway, with more pressure to travel less in the fight against climate change etc. What Covid has done is accelerate the pace of the change.

So, as the light emerges at the end of a long and dark tunnel, there will be lasting changes in our approach to work. Not surprisingly, most remote workers don’t want to return to the office on a full-time basis. A combination of home and in-office work seems to be the answer. But work may well be in ‘an office’ as opposed to ‘the office’.

As large companies grapple with decisions over whether or not they still need their costly inner-city office blocks, could a network of rural co-working hubs be the answer? A shared space for a broad range of business professionals could be a cost-effective and popular solution. Personally, I have missed the creativity which sparks when you meet and work around others and I would jump at the chance of working in a contemporary rural office hub with other professionals.

Broadband speeds may be an issue in some areas but, if resolved, we could see the rise of the rural office and our hinterlands would be a hive of economic activity.

The use of technology has made us realise that (a) you can work from anywhere and (b) you can work for clients or companies anywhere. If you’re a company that embraces flexible working, you could recruit from a much larger pool of applicants and not be restricted to the geographical proximity to your office. Think of the opportunities. As a business owner, I’m excited about the prospect of offering my support services to clients all over the globe.


Aled Rhys Jones is the founder of ON THE LAND – an independent platform and advisory business that provides practical and strategic support to a range of clients involved in rural land and property. Head to their website for more information – www.ontheland.co.uk

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