Is Remote Work a Good Thing for Cities?

A big part of the remote work discussion is how people can finally leave expensive, crowded, dirty cities for the picturesque ridges of the world – and small towns are catching on. In the media and on Twitter we see headlines about the big city exodus and all the beauty that awaits people in the country (mansions for under $300,000, to start). 

But… is this actually the end for cities? I want to hear your opinions in the comments. 

A few questions came to mind that I am genuinely curious to hear your thoughts on:

  • Will the exodus from cities continue or is it just a pandemic thing? 
  • Would you consider leaving the city for a country life if you could work remotely?
  • Would you consider moving into the city to take advantage of plummeting rents and city amenities? 

I’ll start with my opinion: Yes, ish.

Here’s why I think it’s a good thing. 

Choice: as I wrote in Remote Work Can Heal America, there used to be well-paying manufacturing jobs in the country and well-paying knowledge jobs in the city. However, those jobs in the country disappeared slowly and the city became a place you had to be if you wanted a decent job. Tech only exacerbated this problem, with some hubs becoming wildly unaffordable but the tech salaries just grew to match. 

With remote work, being in the city is a choice – I think that’s a huge win in terms of getting people who self-select into being a city dweller and choose to engage in city life. 

Walkability: I love walking and can’t really see myself becoming 100% car dependent. Smaller cities and towns might have walkable cores, but I love that in my home city (Toronto), I can walk anywhere – and be in completely different communities within 15 minutes. That’s a huge draw for remote workers, in my opinion, who don’t have built in social lives from the office and want options.

Diversity: It’s easier to be who you want to be in the city and there’s a real fear that you won’t be accepted in a small town. With remote work, I see an opportunity for cities to become even more diverse. 


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Existing infrastructure: Admittedly, this is a short-term benefit as other areas build up their internet capabilities, but having good, reliable internet and a host of community opportunities makes cities attractive to remote workers. 

The city exodus might finally make real estate affordable: Cities will always be more expensive in the city than the country, relatively speaking. However, an exodus of people who were only here because they were forced to be (in tiny apartments, to boot) means that rental prices will drop (as they already are in some major cities). This shift in who is coming to the city – and why – could lead to cities being built not like sardine cans but actual, livable places. 

Lower rents means more entrepreneurship: New cafes, restaurants, community spaces – it’s possible when upstart entrepreneurs aren’t priced out of the rental market. Who knows, it could become a remote workers paradise. 

So what do you think?

Do you agree with me? Disagree? Think I forgot something? Have your own opinion to add? 

I’d love to start a conversation. Leave a comment on the original article.

This post was originally published on Remotely Inclined.

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