How will the combination of new digital technologies, environmental pressures to reduce work travel and Covid-19 change working life in rural areas?   

This Innovation Fund project investigates how the development and use of rural co-working spaces influences peoples working practices and creates wider business opportunities and connections.  

The research combines two elements:  

  • a case study of a newly-created co-working group using participatory observation and longitudinal surveys to explore members’ motivations for joining and their experiences of engaging in the group; and 
  • interviews with operators of other rural co-working spaces to identify opportunities and challenges from their experiences.  

The project will explore the potential of co-working spaces to form an integral part of digital rural futures.  These futures need to embrace flexible ways of working that sustain external networks and strengthen connections within rural communities.  Findings and recommendations will therefore address both individual needs and community-level opportunities.

As both Covid-19 and environmental pressures make us rethink the length and frequency of work travel, it is a critical time to re-conceptualise rural working and to support rural inhabitants and their wider communities to embrace the opportunities of a modern digital economy.

This project will contribute to Digit’s research into ideas about the connected worker.

Research questions

  • What are the motivators and precursors to sustainable uptake of rural co-working?
  • What are the benefits and challenges associated with rural co-working for individuals, their businesses and their connections in the wider community?
  • What organisational factors and resources (digital facilities and other services) are most important for facilitating effective co-working in rural communities?
  • What working practices and skills needs are linked to opportunities for the continuing development of rural co-working?

Researchers

Principal Investigator: Professor Gary Bosworth (University of Northumbria)

Co-investigators: Professor Jason Whalley (University of Northumbria), Dr Ian Merrell (University of Exeter), Polly Chapman, Dr Anita Füzi.

Digit team member: Dr Emma Russell