Commuting in the bustling, (often dirty) city leads to many of us questioning from time to time where a move to the countryside is something that may be for us. I am sure I am not the only one who has held the escalator handrail during a commute and then discovered blackish, sticky grime has transported from the rail to the palm of your hand. Even worse is being crammed into a tube or a bus finding yourself exposed to the germs being expelled by the individual to your right or left who is coughing uncontrollably and is unwell and knowing there is little you can do to avoid it.
The fact is, more and more people are deciding that enough is enough and are swapping their urban surroundings for more rural surroundings. I can understand this too, as I am someone that moved recently from outer London to the coast of Devon. The commute is admittedly taking some getting used to, but for me, the benefits far outweigh the alternative.
Although this move may be right for me, is it the right move for a senior tax or payroll professional? Worries about maintaining a certain level of income, and securing sufficient work are among the issues that need serious consideration.
Here, the pros and cons in more detail:
Senior tax and payroll professionals considering a move to the countryside have various options with regards to maintaining an income. One point to consider is that many potential clients have also had enough of urban life and are moving to the countryside too. Potentially, this is good news as it may mean it is possible to join a similar sized company with an equally impressive stature to your current firm. If your role requires you to build up a new client base locally in the new rural location then subsequently, this should also be possible. There are also local people who may not be well-serviced and who could be delighted to find an experienced tax or payroll professional operating in their area with City experience.
Agile working opportunities are on the increase as businesses strive to develop better work-life balances and benefits for its employees. With this in mind, there may be opportunities to continue working with existing clients (or even your existing employer) from home (more on that below). Alternatively, if the move to the countryside is still close enough to the big city, commuting could be possible. Often the reduced cost-of-living costs (also more on this below) associated with rural living can more than accommodate the increased costs of commuting. It might also be plausible to do a combination of these things – for example, work with existing clients remotely one or two days a week, work with local clients one or two days a week, and then commute into the city to maintain business relationships the remaining one or two days a week.
Moving to a rural location may be positive for your bank balance too. As Norwood (2013) explains, the price of a property is considerably lower in rural areas. For the price of a two-bedroomed flat in London, it may very well be possible to purchase a four-bedroomed house in some parts of the countryside, with land sometimes thrown in too, and even some left-over cash. I was personally able to afford a property that is double in size in Devon to the house I previously owned close to London. In certain parts of the country, the cost of living is also significantly cheaper than living in one of the UK’s many cities. That said, I have also discovered that some prices can be higher, in particular, utility bills! It is also worth noting the property prices, while lower in rural locations, also do not increase in value at the same rate as city locations so this is worth considering if you decide to move away to the countryside now but want to move back to the City later.
Still not convinced?
Look at this report (related to my recent move to Devon) as an indicator of where the cost of living expenditure can differ (1):
- Consumer Prices in Exeter are 20.00% lower than in London
- Consumer Prices Including Rent in Exeter are 36.70% lower than in London
- Rent Prices in Exeter are 58.19% lower than in London
- Restaurant Prices in Exeter are 21.18% lower than in London
- Groceries Prices in Exeter are 17.31% lower than in London
- Local Purchasing Power in Exeter is 9.16% lower than in London
Agile Working :
In most cases, the financial benefits of moving will probably outweigh the costs. This is particularly true since these days it is possible to work from anywhere with a good WIFI connection – thanks mainly to the increase in SaaS-based solutions (not sure what SaaS is – see my last article – https://jamesgray.wpengine.com/software-service-saas-need-know/).
Senior tax and payroll professionals may find that with the increased use of communications technology such as video conferencing, they can work from home and command a similar income as they did in the big city. This is supported by the ACCA which reports on the numerous technologies that make this much more plausible than it ever was in the past. ‘The Cloud’ offers opportunities to save and share information quickly and efficiently between people working in different locations, for an affordable price. Perhaps this is why the Office for National Statistics reported in 2014 that the number of home workers had increased to 4.2 million, which was the highest number since records began in 1998. Many people find they are more productive working from home, and this affords them a better work-life balance – one of the distinct advantages of moving to the countryside. Even more interesting was the finding that of the 4.2m people working from home, 73.4% of these home workers were in some of the highest skilled roles in the economy (2).
An often-overlooked benefit of moving from an urban location to a rural one is the potential health benefits it can bring. Levels of pollutants are lower in rural locations since there are significantly lower levels of traffic. Evidencing the health benefits of not living in urban areas, a study published in The Lancet in 2017 investigated the link between living close to major roads, and the incidence of dementia, and found that there was a higher incidence of this disease for people living nearby to heavy traffic. Any stress in the countryside can also be walked off by stepping outside one’s front door into the greenery not far beyond, with only the sound of birdsong and boots crunching on the ground below, rather than dealing with the constant traffic noise of urban parks (3).
The benefits of moving to a rural location are very compelling, but senior tax and payroll professionals should also consider the changes that this will bring in their lives. In the city it may be possible to pick up groceries, order take away, and get on a train or bus late into the evening. They also have access to a tremendous variety of entertainment and international cuisine opportunities. In the countryside, things differ. With many companies situating their head offices within the major cities of the UK, living in the country could make it much more challenging to meet people or clients, and subsequent opportunities could be lost. Also, the sheer volume of suitable opportunities is likely to be higher in City locations than in rural ones where sometimes large businesses (that would require a dedicated full-time tax or payroll professional) can be few and far between.
Finally, it is likely that any move (unless you can engineer it with your current employer) will require you to being open about accepting a reduction in your current salary. To use the same reference point as the costs of living data included above, the average salary for a Payroll Manager in Devon is £30,652 whereas in London it is £38.970 (source: https://www.payscale.com/). Therefore, you need to ensure that this is a pill you are happy to swallow in return for quieter rural surroundings.
Ultimately, moving from an urban location to the rural countryside is a decision that should not be made without serious consideration to personal preferences and priorities. It is essential that senior tax and payroll professionals do not romanticise such a possible change, and instead really consider if such a transformation will bring benefits to them. It is a very personal choice. I made mine for family reasons as I wanted my children to live closer to the sea and have access to rural areas of natural beauty such as Dartmoor. Only time will tell if this was the right decision but if you would like to find out more about my personal experience – please get in touch.
Alternatively, if you are a tax or payroll professional looking for a new role in the countryside then please contact us or send us your CV to firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope you enjoyed this article – please comment, share and like as I would love to hear from you!
Written by Nick Day, Managing Director at JGA Recruitment – the UK’s Premier Payroll, HR and Marketing Recruitment Consultancy
Have you listened or subscribed to ‘The Payroll Podcast’ yet? If not, check it out here: https://jamesgray.wpengine.com/the-payroll-podcast/
Nick Day | Managing Director
JGA Recruitment | Payroll & HR Recruiters | Email: email@example.com | Tel: 01727800377
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