People have been saying for years that they would prefer to live in rural areas.
Trulia research in 2014 showed 7% more people wanted to live in rural places than did then.
In 2018, Gallup asked people where they preferred to live. Rural came out on top for all age groups except for 18-29 year olds. With the 18-29 year olds, rural came in a surprising second.
Now people have a choice, and millions of them are planning to move.
According to UpWork:
“The pivot to remote work is the biggest, fastest transformation of the labor market since the World World II mobilization.”
- Major cities will see the biggest out-migration: 20.6% of those planning to move are currently based in a major city.
- People are seeking less expensive housing: Altogether, more than half (52.5%) are planning to move to a house that is significantly more affordable than their current home.
- People are moving beyond regular commute distances: 54.7% of people are moving over two hours away or more from their current location, which is beyond daily or even weekly commuting distances for most.
All of those data points contain some positive news for rural places and small towns looking to attract remote workers.
How small towns can attract and support remote workers
What successful towns do to attract remote workers:
- offering financial incentives
- providing coworking spaces
- building a community of remote workers
Providing co-working and alternative workspaces
One of two top ideas for small towns is to provide places to do remote work. This doesn’t have to mean a formal coworking space. Small towns can start by identifying and sharing alternative workspaces from within the community.
If you don’t have a coworking space in your town now, there are small steps you can take now. Find creative alternative places where remote workers can connect with each other and get some work done.
Where can you find unofficial coworking spaces?
- Start with the public library. They have work areas.
- Maybe a local hotel, motel or bed and breakfast has a workstation or two for guests.
- Whatever organization or business you work for, could you set up a guest workstation in your office? Economic development groups or chambers might be first to volunteer.
- Look for businesses that aren’t using all of their space.
- Maybe an insurance company has some open space up front.
- Maybe an attorney has an extra office they don’t use.
- What about the church fellowship hall or youth center? Would they accept folks for coworking?
As you share your lists of alternative work spots, you’ll be starting to build your remote work community.
Make more of the internet service you already have by improving public wifi coverage
Rural internet is exceptionally variable. Even places that look like they are served on coverage maps may in fact be dead spots. Just crossing the street in a small town can mean the difference between 30mbps and 3mbps service.
That makes public wifi even more important to supporting remote workers. Here’s how to improve the coverage of public wifi in your rural community right now.
1. Find out where free public wifi is available now. This can be as easy as driving around town with a wifi finder app or even the list of available networks on your phone.
2. Let people know about the wifi you found. Make big, consistent, simple and easy to read signs. Everywhere you find public wifi, ask them to post one of the signs.
3. Pursue more wifi. Encourage businesses of all kinds to add guest wifi. Encourage your local government to get involved. Does your local telecom offer any free wifi spots? Give them a push to start.
In places where you find wifi is locked down, ask if they can open it or provide a second network for guest access. Many routers make adding a guest network as easy as checking a box in settings.
More tips for Zoom Towns: Remote Work Ready
These tips are part of the Zoom Towns: Remote Work Ready video from SaveYour.Town. Co-founders Becky McCray (hey, that’s me!) and Deb Brown lead you through a 31 minute video. You’ll learn to position your small town for the future of remote work, without breaking your budget.
Balancing Act: Preserving Historic Fabric and Enhancing Economic Vitality in Towns in the Metropolitan Periphery, Planning Practice & Research, John Accordino & Sarin Adhikari, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2021 https://doi.org/10.1080/02697459.2021.1995970
- About the Author
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.