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This is how home working can boost the local economy

Opinion: Home working can boost the local economy
Seán O'Donnell

With Covid 19 causing a dramatic shift in lifestyle and working practice, it has also been a reason to look at our own lives and where they are headed.

There has been an upsurge in online learning, both formally and informally, and an abundance of budding self entrepreneurs have emerged. Turning a hobby into a viable income source has become a necessity for many people, particularly those working in sectors that have been hardest hit by the pandemic and its effects.

Crisis Management often calls for radical responses and not just from organizations and governments. This pandemic has taught us that we all have a duty and responsibility to take care of each other and ourselves. This has been brought home for many through a reduction in household income, more time on our hands, and questioning our immediate futures.

That additional time has been put to great use despite the uncertainty and confusion this past twelve months has brought. Established traders have ventured into new markets or have added new services and products to their existing portfolios.

Local groups have come together to provide training and support to people looking to upskill. Individuals have turned their hobbies into an income stream.

Focus on the regions, not just the cities

These endeavors must not be wasted. National economic recovery and development plans need to focus on the regions, not just the capital and principal cities.

If basic infrastructures, including transport and communications, are further developed, then home working can become less stressful and more cost and time effective. As a result, employers will be able to allow more remote working, be it full or part-time, and attract and access a skill set that might not have been possible before this pandemic took hold.

SMEs are the lifeblood of every community – large employers don’t have an exclusive claim on that. Within the SME sector lies a whole host of people who have their fingers on their local communities’ pulse and their target audience.

Many of these established and budding entrepreneurs will not feature in “Dragons’ Den” or be eligible for government, EU, and other schemes. Still, depending on the location, other support measures may well be available.

However, as we look towards a post-pandemic economy, more support programmes and initiatives will be needed at every level.

An increase in home working will have an impact on the housing sector too. Property prices will rise as people look to move from the cities to the outer suburbs if not further afield, and if demand begins to outstrip supply, this will be of benefit to house builders.

This, in turn, will free up much-needed city accommodation already in short supply in many cities. If local populations increase, this will positively impact schools, the local infrastructure, and the economy, thus giving a buoyancy to towns and villages that thought it had gone forever.

This will only work to maximum effect if governments ensure appropriate tax breaks, employment protection, and investment in the local infrastructure.

For business owners, a happy workforce is a productive workforce, with many employers doubling down on employee engagement right now, and if supply chains can be adapted, then everyone is happy, including the customer, who at the end of the day is paying for it.

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