10 January 2024

Remote working in rural communities: opportunities and challenges

New research

The Covid-19 pandemic has undeniably changed how people live and work across the UK, writes Kirsten Clarke, PhD Researcher. It is vital to understand how new remote working trends are impacting rural areas and how policymakers can capitalise on their potential to address the unique challenges many rural communities face. Therefore, my PhD research will explore the opportunities and challenges that remote working poses for creating resilient rural communities in a post-pandemic world. It will further examine how working lives and resilience vary across and within communities and adopt a particular focus on traditionally marginalised groups in rural areas.

Contributing to NICRE future of work module

I am a relatively new PhD student, having begun my research in October with the James Hutton Institute and the Countryside and Community Research Institute at the University of Gloucestershire, as part of the NICRE team in the South West. My previous research has examined topics such as land ownership and the impact of tourism on rural communities. NICRE’s work has proved central to my reading for my PhD so far, particularly its research on tackling digital exclusion, rural enterprise hubs, and the future of work. I have also been investigating topics such as the rural-urban divide, rural business resilience, and the impact of Covid-19 on rural communities worldwide.

I had the opportunity to contribute to NICRE’s future of work module on its innovation portal by writing a State of the Art Review (SOTA) during the summer before starting my PhD, which outlined future trends in remote working and their implications for rural businesses, building on the resources already available on the website. This was a fantastic opportunity to immerse myself in the literature for my PhD.

The SOTA highlighted that businesses should take advantage of the flexibility of remote working and embrace the advantages of online communication. However, it also outlined that remote working can create challenges for rural businesses surrounding unequal opportunities for employees, limited work-life balance due to ‘work extensification’, and poor mental health. These are vital findings for my PhD and will help to inform my research design in the coming months.

In the future, I am looking forward to developing the methodological approach that I will use in my research. I hope it will adopt an action-oriented approach and help create tangible change in rural areas. I also hope to use elements of participatory and collaborative approaches to research, engaging with rural communities as research partners and valuing their opinions and experiences. I know these principles align with NICRE’s research, and I hope to continue engaging with, and contributing to, the team’s work in the years to come.