London has established itself as the main destination to secure stable corporate environments for its 1.1 million businesses. As more companies shift to remote working and question the value of London HQs, could remote workers now revive their local high streets?
Covid-19 has had detrimental effects on the hospitality industry. Cafes, restaurants and other highstreet infrastructures, like libraries, have truly suffered the consequences and are now heavily reliant on governmental financial help. Initiatives, such as Scotland Loves Local, have been launched in order to help town centres overcome the consequences of the pandemic.
Local high streets have been suffering long before the effects of the ongoing pandemic. Following 40 years of heavy investment into London business and retail districts, including Canary Wharf and both Westfield Shopping Centres, many small businesses have shut up shop for good.
However, the lockdown has had a positive impact in promoting and supporting local communities. More of us have been shopping locally due to remote work allowing workers to spend more time at home instead of commuting to city centres. Loyalty towards local infrastructure has also been increased as they have helped to support members of the local community. Staff from Suffolk Libraries made over 7,200 phone calls to vulnerable customers during the lockdown. Acts of charity like these have boosted the population’s commitment to bolstering their communities.
The study from the Centre For Economics and Business Research (CEBR) found that 32% of workers expect to continue working remotely at least one day a week post pandemic. In light of this, think of the positive impact remote working could have on local businesses. An increase in time spent by workers (who can be) at home will allow them to trade their Pret-a-Manger order for a latte to their local cafe, to work from a local library and to use their newfound spare time to shop in independent shops.
It must be noted that working from anywhere is not a possibility in all industries thus, commuting will not and should not come to a complete halt. However, even if a humble percentage of office workers, that are able to work flexibly, spend more time and money supporting local businesses that will have a positive impact on boosting smaller communities.
Many critics of remote working have said that a decrease in commuting workers could have some negative effects on our larger cities and indeed there have been genuine concerns over international coffee and restaurant chains having to close a few big-city stores due to lower demand. But could these losses within the city centres be balanced by a ‘spreading of the love’… nationally by salvaging and rejuvenating dying high streets in the suburbs, small villages and towns.
Professor Dimitrios Tsivrikos, a consumer psychologist at UCL says “we are social animals and the high street needs to provide us with the community”.
It is integral to our wellbeing that we have highstreets to allow us to gather as a community. Working remotely does not mean an end to social interaction. It is important to have opportunities to catch up and meet up with colleagues. Flexible working environments still accommodates these interactions that are so integral to the social animals that we are.
Accessibility to work from anywhere is a way of allowing people to help to support local businesses, reconnect with their communities and even help ensure that fundamental facilities, like libraries, remain for future generations.
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