Report: Remote work & new relocation patterns in a post-covid world

The pandemic has brought about a radical change in ways of living and working, significantly impacting how companies and individuals are looking to the future.

How have people been moving under the pandemic, and how can these movement trends impact your organisation, or local area? 

In this report, we collaborated with Future Place Leadership (a Nordic management consultancy specialising in the development, innovation and marketing of places), to develop on our previous Swedish report into migration patterns following the pandemic, analysing the signals from new angles and creating new clusters. We have gathered a number of signals showing both temporary and more permanent migration; the development of work-life related communities; and the impact of this on local development. In this report our focus is on the future by identifying emerging phenomena related to how we will live and work in the next decade. Special emphasis is placed on the implications for places – towns, cities, regions and countries.


The five trends we’ve drawn on are:

1. New Relocation Patterns

More than a year after the pandemic, the new ways of living imposed by COVID-19 seem to have disrupted where people want to live and work. Big cities and dense central urban environments have lost their interest in this equation. Spending more time at home, people now want more space and better access to other amenities such as nature. The question is, to what extent are these relocations permanent? And where are people moving? The signals collected in this cluster provide insights into the motivations behind these relocations and the emerging destinations. Far from being episodic, they are driven by structural trends such as housing prices, social inequalities, and digitalisation.

Taking advantage of these new desires to attract individuals could allow localities and organisations to benefit from a population they may not have reached before. For example, those keen for remote work could now be more interested in smaller companies than they were before, if the large corporations cannot offer the same level of flexibility. Similarly, greener suburbs that were of little interest can benefit from good connectivity to attract new remote or hybrid workers no longer interested in small, central apartments. 


2. Multi-locational workers

When people no longer need to live where they work, it opens opportunities for living in multiple locations. The second cluster explores this shift towards multi-locational work. Increase in digital nomadism requires adapting administrative, legal, and infrastructural frameworks. Places around the world are adapting and creating solutions to enable digital nomads to visit and/or stay and work remotely, including relocation programmes, tailored visa tracks, and the development of new housing and work facilities. Similarly, workers willing to travel should be aware of the support offered by different cities and countries.

The possibility for distance work is opening up more pandemic-, or crisis-, resistant tourism opportunities, which could be taken advantage of.


3. Emergent communities

New movement patterns have allowed the emergence of, and increased the need for, strong communities. Nomads benefit from advice, support and company from others in a similar situation. Individuals looking to permanently move often also benefit from advice given by those who have already been through the experience. Communities can be enabled through spaces such as co-living hubs, or through policies such as talent attraction schemes with networking events in a region.


4. New investment patterns

Relocations not only affect people, but also investments and companies. When traditional innovation hubs – such as Silicon Valley – have become too expensive for both companies and talent, some tech giants such as HP have looked for alternative locations. This trend may grow as remote work makes location less relevant as well as levelling the playing field for contesting innovation hubs. The backshoring trend – i.e. moving manufacturing activity back from low-cost countries – may speed up in a post-COVID world and present new opportunities for smaller places that have managed to attract talent and workforce. In addition, when cities are planned in a mono-functional way and remote work leaves offices deserted, whole districts can sometimes be left vacant and unused. On the other hand, it does also mean that companies are no longer bound to expensive central locations, and can relocate outside of their employees’ housing locations, and to smaller activity-based offices. That said, when office space is freed up, cities can benefit by designing better, more sustainable and greener multifunctional urban spaces, with increased awareness of the new requirements for attractiveness.


5. Reinventing places

These signals address new thinking around empty buildings and city centres, and how they can be reused to become more useful and attractive locations, in large cities, small towns and ruralities alike. Changes in migration and lifestyle patterns impact the built environment, requiring planning and architectural adaptations. Building on the signals explored in previous clusters, selected initiatives intend to innovate the built environment by bringing together a diversity of functions and values. These new spaces weave together work, leisure, and community (“work, live, play”), and make the most of underused buildings in rural and urban districts. 

The key in the future will be to find smart ways to repurpose the built environment in order to accommodate new needs. Does the community need a social centre to build life in the town and retain inhabitants? Does it require a farm to encourage sustainable eating, or would it benefit from a co-living hub to attract more nomads?

To read the signals individually, select the ‘migration patterns’, or ‘talent attraction’ tags, under our ‘research’ page. Otherwise, read the full report as a PDF below (in English):

Download the full report here