Study: Country living makes a comeback in the Czech Republic as remote work is here to stay

A combination of the pandemic and technology means people no longer have to live in major cities to work, but they may need new job skills.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 03.05.2021 10:34:00 (updated on 03.05.2021) Reading time: 4 minutes

For several decades jobs have been shifting to cities, but that trend is now changing. Due to a combination of the pandemic and improving technology, many people have been considering a return to the countryside because they no longer need to live near an office building to work.

The movement toward home office has shown that jobs are not dependent on physical location, and during the past year people have become accustomed to working from home in the last year, according to a study by the personnel consulting company Randstad.

In the Czech Republic, demand for housing in Prague has driven real estate prices for even starter flats out of reach of most people, and mortgage rates are expected to start rising again. This makes more-affordable housing located outside of the city attractive for those who now only rarely need to go to the office.

“As the [quality of] internet connections improve in the countryside and work from home has become commonplace as a result of the pandemic, employment is becoming less and less dependent on physical location. This could even trigger a shift from cities back to the countryside,” Jacek Kowalak, director of the Czech branch of Ranstad, told the Czech News Agency (ČTK).

The opportunity to get out of the city is a global phenomena. “Work itself continues to grow more flexible in format, scope and content. The sudden switch to work-from-home during parts of 2020 has influenced many people’s thinking about work-life balance, job satisfaction and physical location. This could continue to change the conversation in the years ahead,” Randstad CEO Jacques van den Broek said in the report.

Randstad’s Flexibility at Work 2021: Embracing Change report states the work environment is undergoing a change from office buildings to home offices, and not only due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are beginning to question the idea of having company workplaces altogether,” the report states.

The tendency to leave the countryside and move to the city for work is something from the middle of the last century. Many of the factors that required such a move are no longer relevant, and many of the jobs that required personal presence no longer exist.

“For the Gen Z workers entering the labor market, the idea of a telephone operator is as alien as a town crier announcing the day’s news on the streets. Automation has had a dramatic impact on the types of opportunities available in the job market,” the report states.

Companies can build on the remote work trend to create more efficiency, according to Stefano Scarpetta, director for employment, labor, and social affairs at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

“My sense of what we are going to see from here is new workplace arrangements and many companies adopting fresh approaches in the way they organize work. We have an opportunity to build on the experience of 2020 and move from remote work to smart work,” Scarpetta said.

“That means not only working from home, but working better and in more effective ways too. We also need to reconsider the purpose of our workplaces, in order to make them even more suitable for the hybrid forms of interactions they will facilitate going forward,” he added.

While the pandemic temporarily restricted physical movement, the broad adoption of work-from-home arrangements provided opportunities to people who previously wouldn’t have been able to access jobs due to geographic barriers, the report states.

Furthermore, governments, the private sector, and other stakeholders are providing more resources to help reskill and upskill millions of workers, while passing legislation to protect the growing class of independent contractors and freelancers.

The need for workers to reskill will not be insignificant. The pandemic has significantly accelerated automation and digitization, leaving more than half of all workers worldwide in need of retraining by 2030.

"The pandemic accelerated the deployment of modern technology in companies by a decade,” Kowalak pointed out.

"As a result, more than half of workers will need to improve their skills or fully retrain in the coming years, as on average one in seven people will face job loss due to technology and automation. The first candidates for this change are employees in the administration, services, or finance, who perform repetitive or administrative tasks,” Kowalak added.

According to Kowalak, in the following years, it will be necessary for employers themselves to invest intensively in their employees and their education. They cannot rely only on people’s personal activity or the Czech education system, which can’t react flexibly. Moreover it cannot predict what type of knowledge will be needed in five or 10 years.

When educating their employees, companies should focus on working with new technologies as well as on soft skills, especially on creativity, communication skills, and adaptability. A very important criterion for future employability will be how people will be able to adapt to change, This is related to the need to accept lifelong learning.

People, whether they are working remotely or from the office, will need to be more flexible about their careers. “Obviously, in the future, people will change jobs, occupations or even their position in the labor market more often. The days when it was common to start a job at the age of 18 and retire from the same company at the age of 60 with a gold watch are long gone,” Kowalak said.

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