The pandemic has come at a huge human cost, with excess deaths in the UK now exceeding 150,000. Long Covid, surging inflation and public service backlogs all risk hurting the poorest in society. Yet despite these dark clouds, there is an economic silver lining: the greater adoption and acceptance of remote working can be a shot in the arm for growing the economy and can support greater economic dynamism outside London and the southeast.
As MP for Hull West and Hessle and as an economist brought up in Hull, we see the potential for putting the city at the front of the queue of areas looking to exploit these new opportunities. Hull has an unmatched network of high-speed fibre broadband, a low cost of living and a growing confidence as a creative hub. The local business community is enthusiastic in its support: in a remarkably short space of time, it has created a range of spaces across the city that enable a flexible approach to remote working, while also retaining full access to the usual office facilities.
A key lesson of the huge, unplanned experiment of remote working during the pandemic is that it has been able to go hand-in-hand with higher productivity. A recent study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research suggested a potential boost to UK labour productivity of nearly £59 billion by 2025.
Yet we also recognise that remote working needs to evolve. The issue of isolation, which proved a problem for some during lockdowns, means that spaces need to embrace “co-working”. Sharing space with other remote workers allows for new connections and brings the benefits of cross-discipline knowledge, experience and fresh insights.