I’m sure the internet was meant to make it possible for us to live in rural idylls - even abroad - and still do our exciting jobs in the city. We have just parted company with our web developers because they’ve outsourced from London to Latvia. Oh, the irony.
It seems we still need to turn up to an actual place every day and talk to people in real life - even if the subject of the discussion is virtual. So the rural idyll remains an annual holiday, but there is a benefit for smaller businesses.
People do want to ‘escape the city’ but in a less literal sense. The jobs website that goes by the same name has nothing to do with the rural economy, but is a hub for positions in startups and entrepreneurial organisations and charities. The ‘city’ represents all that is dull and restrictive and the ‘escape’ is more personal, exciting and flexible. There are different reasons for wanting to escape, one of which is flexibility, particularly for people with children (I say people because it pains me to be honest and say women, which is mostly the case).
My hours have always been ‘flexible’. Initially that meant all hours, then it meant when the children were at school or in bed, and Nick and I recently celebrated a wedding anniversary at a restaurant defining a purpose for Rude Health. (This, incidentally, is an excellent example of both the downside of ‘flexible’ hours and why it might not be a great idea to set up a business with your partner, if you intend on having any kind of a life.) Quite often the best ideas and biggest picture thinking happens when you are on holiday.
Consequently, we are less hung up on hours than on everyone being their real selves at work, rather then leaving their personality at the door and performing like a machine. Possibly more efficient, yes, but so much less engaged. Nobody is clock-watching and we have an increasing number of people who don’t work a standard five-day week. I believe that as a result we benefit from having experienced and talented people who have lives and children that enrich them, and they bring that wealth of life experience to the business.
So the failure of the rural escape has meant that entrepreneurial businesses get to keep the best and most interesting people in the city. Win.
Camilla Barnard is co-founder and brand director of Rude Health