John McGrath - Work Changes and Future Lifestyle Options
Where we work has always driven our choices around where we live.
Our homes and workplaces are where we spend most of our time and in today’s busy world, it’s great to have them close together because the shorter the daily commute, the more time you have for yourself and your family.
Over time as Australia’s population has grown, affordability has become a challenge in the inner rings of major capitals like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Most people these days simply don’t have the budget to live close to the city, so they go further afield and contend with a daily commute.
City planners have been grappling with this problem for years.
Our cities will not stop growing and it’s clear that long commutes can put a strain on families both emotionally and financially.
So far, we’ve adapted by establishing ‘secondary CBDs’, such as Parramatta in Sydney, as well as major business parks in suburban areas.
This has enabled some workers to live in more affordable areas while being close to the office.
It’s a good solution but building new infrastructure takes time.
I think a new solution is presenting itself, with a big positive out of Covid-19 likely to be more people being able to work from home.
We’re in the middle of what appears to be a very successful trial of working remotely en masse, with increased productivity among the surprising results.
Could this be the start of a brand new way of working? And if so, what does it mean for property?
Working from home isn’t a new idea.
Modern technology has made it possible for years but few big firms have been willing or adaptable enough to give it a go on any significant scale…until now.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics says 46 per cent of Australian workers are working from home today.
The benefits include a reported $12.7 million saving per day on public transport and more time for home-cooked meals, with 29 per cent of those surveyed by the ABS consuming less takeaway or delivered food in May.
There’s also been great benefits for employers, with many recent media reports of reduced costs and increased productivity within many different types of companies since staff started working remotely from home.
Westpac’s Chief Information Officer, Craig Bright told the AFR that productivity increased in April and May, with many tasks that he thought required in-office collaboration successfully completed remotely.
It’s making them wonder if home-based work should be a bigger part of the mix.
They’re not alone in their thinking.
Twitter is reportedly letting employees continue to work from home permanently if they wish.
Atlassian has told its 4,500 global staff they can work from home til the end of the year.
If remote working is the next big trend, it would transform the lifestyle choices of many Australians.
Some might head to the regions where homes are much more affordable (and paid off faster with a city income).
There will be time for breakfast with the kids and a quiet lunch break during the day.
When 5.30pm rolls around, you’ll be off to the beach for a surf instead of lining up for a train or bus.
Great regional options in NSW include Newcastle, the Hunter Valley, Wollongong, Shoalhaven, Kiama, the Southern Highlands and inland areas with airports, like Orange and Port Macquarie.
In Victoria, Melburnians might consider a new lifestyle in Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat, the Mornington Peninsula or the beautiful Dandenong Ranges.
Brisbanites might consider the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba; or Byron Bay in Northern NSW where there’s an airport.
Those who want to stay in their capital city might swap their inner city mortgage for a bigger and less expensive home further out.
The money you need to buy an inner city terrace in Sydney could buy a 5 bedroom family home in the Hills, with no compromising on the quality of amenities and schools.
Having such choices would be one of the few positives out of Covid-19 and go a long way to overcoming the affordability challenges that future generations of workers face in our cities.
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This article originally appeared in The Real Estate Conversation (May 25, 2020)