The exurbs: The natural habitat of the telecommuter?


The impact of more remote work on the built environment is an occasional and fascinating subtopic of the whole connected work discussion. Will office spaces shrink or need a radical overhaul as more people dial in? Will roads and rail plans be affected by a decrease in commuters?

Now, halfway around the world in New Zealand, a ZDNet Australia (s cbs) writer is asking whether the ongoing shifts in the way many of us work are going to encourage denser city cores or more spread out population patterns. Writer Darren Greenwood notes that though environmental activists and design enthusiasts often call for denser city cores that demand fewer resource-gobbling cars and encourage us to live in smaller spaces, the connected future of work might actually lead to more people moving further out from these urban cores.

In recent decades, New Zealand has seen a drift from the provinces to large cities like Auckland, mainly due to better job prospects. However, this has made Auckland extremely crowded and expensive, just like many a large Australian metro area.

People just might find that the costs of living in Auckland are no longer worth it, especially if the extra pay is not enough to compensate for loss of quality of life, never mind if you want that garden that the planners are so keen to use on housing.

Employers, too, will soon realize that if you can get people working from home in the exurbs for a bit less, or they can have branch offices in cheaper, neighboring towns and cities, then why be in the city centre?

Thus, one of the main impacts of UFB [Ultra-Fast Broadband] could well be on the shape of our towns and cities.

Commentators have had plenty to say about the possible advantages of greater uptake of remote work for rural areas, as well as how coworking spaces might benefit out-of-the-way communities, but the idea that remote work might be a boon for the exurbs – bane of green campaigners – isn’t one you hear too often.

Of course, there are lots of factors at play when it comes to how our cities and town evolve, including energy prices, climate change and how our collective interest in greener living develops, or fails to. But nonetheless, Greenwood’s insight is an interesting thought to add to the pot.

If you could work from anywhere, where would you live?

Image courtesy of Flickr user Worker101.



A mid-sized city for me, too. It’s important to have all the general services present and not too far away, but would also be good to get away from the prices and congestion of big cities.

Plus small-to-mid-sized cities surrounded by farms are in the best position to transition to a more self-sustaining relocalized model.

Will Kriski

yes exactly! all this talk of urban sprawl, transportation is moot. I moved from Calgary to the country just outside of a small town (Sackville, New Brunswick). While most people around here farm, and burn their own wood for heat, I’m in a beautiful country home and work on remote IT projects.

Imagine the change in housing price distribution as people can live pretty much anywhere.


I live on 5 wooded acres in the boonies of a western US state. 7 miles to a town of 5,000, with a sheriff’s deputy available 24/7. Volunteer FD: 2 miles away. Day medical clinic, but 24/7 ambulance to hospital 40 miles away. Bandwidth: fixed wireless 1.5M/750K. Decent public library. And this is the poorest county in the state. So, trollcall, I guess you could live in the boonies too.


I’d live in a place where there were a minimum of 24 hour fire, police, and hospital services available. That might require I live in a mid-size city, but I wouldn’t want to be in a large city over the long-term.

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