Homeworking could give a boost to Yorkshire's economy, especially in rural areas

The move towards working from home could give a boost to the local economies of small towns and rural areas across Yorkshire, as employers become more flexible and workers shun the office on a permanent basis.

Towns like Rishi Sunak's constituency of Richmond could get a boost as more people work from home

While this could elevate towns and villages, it may also see companies from the South East considering recruiting people in Yorkshire to work remotely.

Due to lockdown, many people who would not normally work from home are doing so and some of them are planning to continue as the pandemic eases, as employers have realised it is cheaper and is not necessarily less productive.

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Ian Warren, co-founder of the Centre for Towns, said: “We’re seeing a big potential for places to market themselves as remote working destinations.”

He said more working-age people may be attracted to living in towns, as long as the internet is good, which can be a problem in rural areas, adding that many young people do want to live in the towns and villages where they grew up.

“It’s good news for local councils because they get more council tax from those people, it's good news for local high streets because they spend the money on the high streets and if a place can attract in and retain a thriving working age population, it does well, generally speaking.

“That's true across the country, the best performing towns are ones with a healthy mix of age groups and professional types.”

He said Ilkley has the highest proportion of home workers in the region, at 11 per cent during the census in 2011, though is likely to have risen considerably since then, and again after the pandemic started.

Official figures show half of adults in the UK are working from home during lockdown.

Ali Jaffer, policy lead at the Social Mobility Commission, said the move towards homeworking is a really good opportunity for companies to get good candidates outside of their existing geographical circles.

“Opportunity is still particularly concentrated in London and the South East. People who move to those areas, particularly from more deprived communities, often do so at the expense of important family connections.

“Some people move because they’re forced to move, while others simply can’t afford to move.

“But Covid is likely to change things as there’s an opportunity for employers in particular to change how they work and not become so workplace-centric.”

He urged city-based employers and those with head offices in the south to consider the untapped talent in parts of Yorkshire, particularly towns and villages.

“It’s not suitable for all employers but for those who can do it, they should think about expanding their talent pool.”

James Hodgkinson, 33, a marketing manager at a chemical distribution company, previously commuted to an office in Leeds city centre five days a week, but is now planning to work permanently at home after lockdown as his employer is very flexible and adapted well.

He said: “When I took on a management role I thought I would need to be in the office more. Lockdown has made me realise that I can manage people from home.

“I used to drive into the city every day and spend some of my morning stuck in traffic, so it’s great not to do that.

“Now, if I go out to buy lunch, I’m buying a sandwich from a local sandwich shop owned by my neighbours, rather than a city centre shop, so it feels good to be able to boost my local economy in that very small way.”