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How To Give Up The Commute, Achieve A Great Work Lifestyle Balance and Still Have a Career

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How To Give Up The Commute, Achieve A Great Work Lifestyle Balance and Still Have a Career



London’s fast-paced environment and constantly growing market produces numerous career opportunities for tax professionals. For many, London is the plan, the goal, the destination. Unfortunately this destination comes at a price; both literally and figuratively with a high cost of living and often prohibitive transportation costs. Add to that the long commutes for those forced to live outside of London and it becomes difficult to understand why the capital has such a pull for many people.


There seems to be a metrocentric driven conception of “I couldn’t work anywhere else”, but is this really true? If you’re ambitious, is London really peerless? Could a more rural location provide the same career potential as London despite the fact that it could appear to be more removed from the exciting business hub that we expect?


Records from leading market events such as the Taxation Awards, show that more rurally located firms are receiving attention that parallels London based firms. Employees at these non-London locations are relieved of commuter costs, stresses and reliance on unpredictable public transport. They are reaping the benefits of working for highly successful firms, having a more flexible working routine and experiencing a more balanced work to social life ratio.


I’ll take the chance of a seat, broken air con and invasions of personal space, please.


Many workers have valid concerns when they consider moving to a location outside of London for their career, which is in part due to the fact that London pay rates are generally higher. But this is for a reason – it compensates for commuting costs. But can it compensate for the other costs? Commuting is expensive but it doesn’t just affect your wallet.


From melodic beach sounds to cracking open a bottle of wine, there are many ways people try to combat stress. Despite some methods perhaps being a bit more questionable, the aim is understandable and the goal is hugely beneficial. There are countless research papers and faculties focused on the importance of identifying ‘stressors’, and relieving the results. This is really just a show of collective, scientific genius brains concluding that: the less stress we experience, the happier we are. The obvious aside however, and we discover that commuting is directly related to stress. Take a dip into the science and you will find that the longer a person commutes the more anxious, agitated and tired they are. In fact, in addition to that, Swedish researchers recently discovered that divorce is 40% more likely to occur in marriages where one partner commutes longer than 45 minutes. Clearly, it isn’t the act of sitting on a train for an hour that can lead to this, but the accompanying stress initiated by the commute.


Another peek into the research demonstrates findings of ‘loneliness’ in commuters. Well, I’m certainly not aware of a regular 7am train full of laughter, conversation and cheerful exchanges. It’s far more likely that you will be surrounded by surly, tired-looking suits starring at phones or laptops and quite actively avoiding any eye contact that could be interpreted as “I’m actually not all that comfortable in your person space”. So it’s not surprising that for every ten minutes of extra commuting there are 10% fewer social interactions.


So how much money would make all of the extra costs of a long commute worthwhile and is London able to provide it? The University of Zurich carried out a study titled “Stress that doesn't pay: The Commuting Paradox” which found that every extra hour of commuting time required a 40% increase in salary to make it seem worthwhile. Would a London firm be able to offer that?


So what can a rural firm offer?


While it is clear that a short commute is going to have its advantages – let’s just go through the professional advantages.


  • Team size: A smaller and more independent business can offer you the opportunity to reach higher levels of responsibility within a shorter period of time. These smaller firms tend to have a less structured hierarchy and can offer opportunities you may not find in larger London firms.
  • Longevity and success: A list of the top 50 Rising Star businesses found that just 3 out of the top ten were based in London and that these firms had high levels of success despite their location. Perhaps due to the reduced competition and local support these businesses appear to thrive and last.
  • Independence: It is easy to feel that you are simply a cog in the wheel of a larger firm – especially in the taxation industry. London firms are often big enterprises with huge employee numbers where it is hard to be seen as an important member of the workforce. A rural firm is more likely to place emphasis on being independent and will still offer the same credibility and the benefits of a larger firm – but with added visibility within the structure of the company.
  • Client stability: Because of the local connections that are often built up over many years, clients in rural areas build up a relationship with their taxation firm and are less likely to be poached or leave. This offers you the opportunity to work closely with a client and to understand their needs better.


London no longer offering growth potential?


In fact, focusing on your potential, according to a report from the CBI in 2013, London firms were looking to expand their businesses, but not within the capital. They were actually making the choice to add branches outside of the London area. Many cited high operating costs and a lack of affordable housing for their workers as the barrier to their growth in London. It is clear that it actually makes good business sense to choose locations that are free from those costly expenses. If the businesses are growing out of London, you don’t want to be stuck with a glass ceiling of opportunity by staying in London.


So, if I haven’t already made it clear – working outside of London is not only great for your career, it is the ideal way to achieve a more relaxed and healthy lifestyle. It’s hardly surprising that many more tax professionals are pursuing careers outside of London. 


Lucy Greenwood

I recruit for the following regions in tax; East Anglia, Southern and Northern home counties, the Southwest and the Southeast.

My clients include; the Big 4, Top 10, Mid-tier, Independent and Niche Firms. 

As a recruiter myself, but having also worked with recruitment firms, I know the difficulties involved in looking for a new role and how important it is for you to secure the right position. 

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss your career options outside of London. 



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