By Kim Taylor
Stating the obvious here: COVID times are challenging times. This past year has challenged the way we live, our patterns of movement, the way we divide our time, the way we relax. But as we come out of COVID crisis phase and into management phase, we are adapting and there are silver linings.
There has been a lot of talk about the pandemic being the catalyst that tips us from years of anticipating a shift in working arrangements, to seeing some real change. Studies from across the world, including Quantum’s AustraliaNOW, show that the majority of workers who can work from home would prefer not to go back to the office full time (66%), with half (49%) preferring a blended and flexible approach between home and office. (AustraliaNOW Report Feb 2021)
I myself am in that majority number. I’ve shifted my life to revolve around my home. In the last twelve months I’ve changed doctors, dentists, my gym – all from workplace accessible locations to close-to-home providers as I pursue a hybrid approach to work and home life. This new approach to work-life has implications across sectors, ranging from public transport through to health services – shuffling demand to new areas.
And some changes are more transformative with even broader implications.
The most recent AustraliaNOW report shows that almost four in ten Australians (38%) have considered relocating to a regional area, and of those, 10% have pulled the trigger.
Once again, I find myself reflected in trend data. During lockdown, spurred on by government grants and lockdown weariness, I bought a house in coastal regional Victoria. Bernard Salt, esteemed Australian demographer, has referred to my fellow movers and me as VESPAs – Virus Escapees Seeking Provincial Australia.
It’s a strange thing to read about yourself in the news – to have a mirror held up to your choices. Stranger yet to know you’ve earned yourself a new moniker. But yes, that’s me – an escapee.
Largely the move is something I’ve always wanted. It’s just that the traditional structure of life made it difficult to achieve. I love my job, but it tied me to a city-based existence that never quite fit my lifestyle aspirations. I’ve made do with escaping the city every weekend and living in a too-small rented flat with outdoor sports gear tucked into every available cupboard.
For many (41%), considering a regional move is financially driven as they seek improvements to cost of living pressures. For others (40%), like myself, it is a lifestyle decision. I’m terrible at city living. I don’t go to events or live music. I’m not that fussed on bars and shopping. I want a different quality of life.
Making the move
Am I nervous? Do I have any concerns? Of course. It’s a big change. It means making new friends. It means shifting away from family. It means going through the motions of finding new service providers (again). Will there be sufficient support services in the regions for me? How bad will the traffic be if I need to get back to the city? Is my internet going to be fast enough? Will the culture that currently supports working from home last?
But mostly I’m excited. I’m hopeful. I’m grateful that I get a chance to have my cake and eat it too. I can have this job that I love and I can live in a place that fits me, in my own home with a garage (!) That’s the plan anyway. So I’m buying new surfboards, investigating local coffee joints and eagerly awaiting the fast rail project from Melbourne to Geelong.
AustraliaNow Reports are available for download from the Cultural Trends page of our website.