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Source: Ulf Lundin/Imagebank.sweden.se

Conclusions and future research

This study shows that there is considerable uncertainty as to what remote work opportunities will bring long term, especially related to urban and regional planning. A better understanding of who remote workers are and what specific needs they may have would help shape local strategies and policies directly related to them. However, as hybrid work seems to develop into the main form of remote work, encompassing the larger share of the remote work population, planners might use their similarities to both full-time on-site and commuting populations to understand their use of the town and transport facilities. This study has also pointed to the centrality of urban attractiveness and shown that features deemed to be central to attractivity do not differ dramatically between remote and hybrid workers and other types of inhabitants. However, physical and digital infrastructure and housing potentially bear more weight in relocation decisions for remote and hybrid workers as these services and needs might be used somewhat differently compared to full-time, on-site workers.
Research on remote work and its effects after the pandemic has only recently started and is very much a work in progress.  It would be useful to monitor and follow the development in different locations and types of urban areas over time in order to better understand its potential and limitations. Future research related to smaller towns could study pre- and post-pandemic use of public transport to investigate how travel patterns might have changed and what might be discerned about remote and hybrid workers’ habits. Further, local surveys related to remote work habits and incentives for migration could add layers of understanding at the local level. Apart from present town populations, other groups that might be targeted in such surveys are people who have recently chosen to move to the town, commuters, and second-home owners. This study has also indicated that remote work policies applied in smaller towns may be interesting to explore further as the small-town setting might have special dimensions (e.g., studies that analyse aspects of control and trust in smaller communities). Other studies of relevance may include looking into potential cost-savings when offices are used less regularly or studies on regulations influencing the time and conditions of remote work.
To conclude, our findings further support the following statement by Pertti Taskinen of Statistics Finland: After the coronavirus pandemic, Europe "returned to the office", but hybrid work is likely to remain a megatrend in working life. The knowledge base for understanding the "new normal" should therefore be strengthened. (Taskinen, 2023).