The exurbs: The natural habitat of the telecommuter?

exurbs and telecommuting

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 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.

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