Bright Lights, Dim Cities: Professionals Drawn to Major Cities for Career Success Now Want Out

Driven by a housing crunch and high cost of living, knowledge workers seek urban escapes

They were drawn to big cities by the bright lights and career prospects. Now, beset by a housing crunch and high cost of living, a growing number of professionals living in U.S. cities are becoming disillusioned and say they’re ready to leave. According to a recent survey conducted by One Poll, 70 percent of knowledge workers living in urban locales say they would move to outlying areas if they could perform their jobs at the same level. And as the battle for talent heats up around the globe, companies need to follow them and enable remote work.

The talent crunch is real

By 2020, McKinsey & Company estimates there will be a shortage of 95 million medium-to-high-skilled workers globally. And it’s rocking the corporate world. A recent Stripe and Harris Poll found that 61 percent of C-Suite executives view access to talent as the greatest inhibitor to their growth aspirations. And an IDC CIO survey found that the lack of experienced talent is holding many companies back from pursuing innovations such as multi-cloud strategies, security and artificial intelligence initiatives.

At the heart of the problem is that traditional work models, where work is organized around a hub like a call center or office building, are fundamentally broken. And they’re creating a frustrating employee experience and exacerbating the war for talent. People today want to work where they want to work. Often, this isn’t near traditional work hubs.

And if the OnePoll survey is any indication, the situation is only likely to get worse.

The bright lights of big cities have dimmed

Of the 5,000 knowledge workers across the U.S. surveyed, a majority see major cities as a key catalyst for their careers, primarily because of the large number of employers operating within them, the availability of more highly skilled jobs and higher salaries. But the price of these opportunities is becoming too high to pay.

· 58 percent of those polled cite the costs of city living as “crippling”

· 72 percent say they are unable to buy property

The grass looks greener

And as a result, they’re ready to move.

· 70 percent of workers currently living in cities stated they would be very likely/fairly likely to consider relocating to suburban or rural areas if they knew their professional life wouldn’t suffer and they could still perform their role to the same level

The talent is out there

It just may not be where you want it to be. To get the right people in the right places to unlock innovation, engage customers and move their business forward, companies need to rethink the traditional office and create a more flexible environment in which employees can work when, where and how they want. Many companies are on the path to doing so.

· 35 percent of respondents to the OnePoll survey say they are introducing flexible/remote work policies to widen the talent pool, and

· 31 percent are searching for talent nationwide, including in rural areas

The heat is on

But they need to pick up the pace. Only 33 percent of workers polled currently work remotely at least one day a week, although 85 percent say they could do their job just as effectively from anywhere. And they see a number of positives in doing so:

· 69 percent say working remotely would enable them to be more productive and focused

· 83 percent think it would enable them to strike a healthier work-life balance

· 77 percent indicated they could save money by reducing commuting costs

The gap can be bridged

So what’s holding companies back in enabling remote work and taking advantage of the benefits it can provide? Technology can be a great equalizer. Unfortunately, in many areas there remains a clear divide. What’s causing it? Connectivity was cited as a key challenge by 58 percent of respondents who said the current quality of broadband negatively impacts their ability to reliably work from home.

But companies have access to readily available tools to change this. SD-WAN solutions, for instance, allow companies to provide consistent and reliable access to corporate systems and data to users in even the most remote locations. And digital workspaces enable them to give people the flexibility to work anywhere, anytime from any device and be their most productive.

Job satisfaction and success are becoming a lot like real estate. Location matters. And remote work can enhance both. In creating a flexible workplace, companies can not only narrow the technical divide, but create a world-class experience that enables their employees and business to thrive.

Tim Minahan is Executive Vice President of Strategy and Chief Marketing Officer for Citrix, a leading provider of intelligent digital workspace solutions

Tim Minahan is the executive vice president, business strategy and chief marketing officer at Citrix, a leading provider of digital workspace solutions.

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