The recent Coronavirus pandemic has had an astronomical effect on modern civilisation as we know it. While a lot of us are still adjusting to the uncertainty of ‘life with the virus’, we are gradually coming to the realisation that we will never fully return to what we considered normalcy before the lockdown began. So what does this mean for the working men and women of society? With more of a relaxed approach from businesses to the geographic location if their employees, will this spark a branching out of the workforce into less population-dense areas?
There are many questions that are provoking the thoughts of economists today. Naturally, we humans crave a degree of certainty in our lives, and so now that ‘working from home’ is no longer a proposition you give your employer when you have a night out planned, the opportunity for remote-work is engulfing the working population of Dublin.
Modern-day professionals occupying jobs as accountants, lawyers or computer programmers are often referred to as ‘knowledge workers’, and these jobs are loosely defined as highly skilled, highly paid roles involving disproportionate volumes of ‘thinking’ whose geographical location is integral to the function of the economy. The reason these jobs are so important to the economy is due to the exponential amount of other jobs they create.
For example, a surgeon requires multiple members of staff to work at his practice, a lawyer generally requires a legal secretary. On average these ‘knowledge jobs’ create 5 additional jobs, thus being a massively important part of the business ecosystem. With companies such as Facebook and Twitter announcing a permanent work-from-home offer to their employees, these people will now be under no obligation to undertake the arduous daily commute and will be free to operate much closer to their homes.
It can be imagined that we can expect to experience a significant spike in activity in the towns surrounding Dublin as a direct result of this monumental shift in company policy.
Suburban towns such as Sandyford, Newbridge and Navan will now become incredibly attractive to working professionals due to factors such as cost-effective housing, less congestion, and decreased travel expenses. With a massive amount of money being saved on transport, it can be thought that millions of Euro in disposable income could be saved in the Irish economy each day.
Knowledge workers tend to be located in cities due to the optimal synergy it produces in organisations where creativity can flow, maximising productivity. That said, due to the disproportionate amount of women working in face-to-face roles, they have experienced a more drastic effect of the Coronavirus. Workers such as baristas and small business owners rely heavily on the number of knowledge workers in the area, and without them, their jobs would be at risk.
There are certainly many things to consider with regards to the economic effect of the virus. It has been indicated that 1 in 3 commuters suffer from depression with a direct correlation being found between their mental state and the day-to-day stress of travelling to and from work. By cutting out this commute, we could have a profoundly more productive workforce, happier people, and a more vibrant economy.