Regional revolution: Could remote work transform regional Australia?

There's no doubt that the global pandemic is going to reshape the way we live and work forever. As we start to see what the Future of Work holds for us, then could we see a revival and reinvigoration of regional towns across Australia?

A recent survey found that 80% of respondents think that the current working from home phenomenon will endure post-pandemic. People are working more productively, they are loving the lack of commute, they are less stressed about work, and can concentrate more. They’ve had a taste of this new way of working, and they won’t want the privilege revoked when the COVID-19 all-clear is given.

If all these people are right – and workers don’t return to central business districts in droves once the crisis is over – then where will they go?

Attendees at last year’s Docusign Momentum Sydney event may recall the lively customer panel session, during which Alex Butterworth, Senior Legal Counsel, McDonald’s shared his views on how technology is enabling people to work more seamlessly from remote locations. At the event, he said, “We may see people start to make a tree change and live in a quiet country town where they can still work for a big company, which may be based in a city like Sydney. I think that the de-aggregation and decentralization of the workforce is the direction that we're headed in, and that's a good thing.”

Alex’s views – which were shared well before any of us could have predicted that 88% of organisations would be sending their workers home for an indefinite period – ring very true now.

CBD pain, regional gain

In normal times, almost half a million people work in the Sydney CBD. If some of these people don’t return, and opt for a tree change or sea change instead, regional Australia may be on the cusp of transformation. Think about it. If city workers can take their city jobs and city salaries to places that have traditionally relied on agriculture or seasonal tourism, then there is incredible potential for growth.

And why wouldn’t people move to the country? Housing is so much more affordable – if you’re going to work from home, then wouldn’t you want to do it in a larger house that has a study or home office, instead of perching at a kitchen bench in an inner-city apartment? If people take their work to the regions, then other jobs will follow – cafes, galleries, music venues, bookstores, and all the other accoutrements of life that city dwellers are used to.

Then there’s the potential for regional areas to become manufacturing hubs. As this article explores, Australia’s huge reliance on China was exposed during the crisis, and we may need to rethink where and how we source key goods. Country towns could be the perfect place for manufacturers to set up shop.

Technologies like Docusign eSignature enable regional and remote work

As long as there is a reliable internet connection, then people can work from anywhere. The regional towns that can offer fast connectivity will fare much better in terms of capturing a slice of the work-from-home pie; not to mention for manufacturers who want to build big business out in the sticks.

From Zoom and Teams, to Slack and Box, the tools that enable remote working rely on swift connectivity. And businesses probably won’t allow you to work remotely unless you can access these tools.

For example, if you’re a part of a legal team whose signature is relied upon to keep the wheels of your business in motion, then a dependence on the postal service if you live four hours from the office is going to wear pretty thin, pretty quickly, for all involved. Instead, you could make the switch to Docusign eSignature to get those legal documents signed in an instant – while you’re sitting on the back verandah watching the cockatoos clamour in the gum trees.

Technology is going to be the great enabler of a growth in remote and regional workforces. As this year’s events have shown, working from home is not only possible – but it is a favourable option for many people. Now, it’s a matter of watching this space to see where all these people will land.

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