A monthly season ticket from Basildon to Fenchurch Street costs £198.20, equivalent to £2378.40 per year. Of course there are plenty of people working in London that have given up on the stress and unpredictability of public transport and decided to drive to work, but with the costs of petrol rising and the increase to congestion charges, together with the stress of traffic into the city, when it comes to commuting to London, neither private nor public transport are particularly attractive options. The other option of course is to find a job a bit closer to home, but does Essex offer good opportunities and competitive salaries?
According to the Michael Boyd & Partners, there are not only plenty of opportunities in the region but the disposable income gap between London and local is not that vast either.
Lauren Williams, Managing Director of the Rayleigh-based agency comments, “Many people don’t tend to take into account that the amount they spend on travel is a cost after already paying tax on earnings. I worked in London years ago when there were less local opportunities and salaries were somewhat higher than local positions, but because of the increase in travel costs over the past few years, together with the fact that wages rarely rise in line with these costs, the actual gap in money to spend between working in London or working locally is decreasing each year.”
According to the agency, someone earning £20k in London who buys a monthly season ticket from Basildon to Fenchurch Street, would actually be better off working locally for £16.5k.
Hannah Beamish, Head of Recruitment at Michael Boyd & Partners agrees, “we often register candidates who are earning around £20k in London and want to work locally because of the time spent commuting. However, the absolute minimum salary they will consider for a local position is £18k per year. This 2k difference however does not cover the real cost of commuting. If candidates would consider working locally for £16.5k, they would actually be better off financially than earning £20k in London.”
According to Jennifer Wills, who found a local position through Michael Boyd & Partners, after spending 5 years working in London, it’s not just the cost of commuting you need to think about, “Even just buying a sandwich and coffee most days at work added up to me spending around £1500 per year. Working locally means I actually have time to make lunch in the morning and take it with me! Even when I do buy lunch, it costs me nearly half the price of London.”
But it’s not just the rising costs and hassle of commuting that is driving some people to look for local jobs. Having more free time, less stress and being to achieve a healthy work-life balance is becoming increasingly important.
Michael Boyd & Partners has helped many candidates make the move from London. Eddie Brown worked in London for over 10 years and contacted the agency in November 2007, after seeing a local job advertised. A shorter commute, more social interaction, and being able to spend more time with his family were the main reasons for looking for a job closer to home.
"Having worked in London for over 10 years, I was tired of the stress and unpredictability of the daily commute. When I started looking for a new job, I decided that I was going to focus on getting work nearer home. I had registered with a number of agencies but it was Michael Boyd who finally came up with the right combination of location and work, at a specialist data solutions company. I have now cut my commute by 2 hours a day and end the day feeling better than I ever did working in the City. It's early days but it's definitely better than the London grind!"
Lauren Williams from Michael Boyd & Partners also claims there to be plenty of opportunities for career development in the region. “Essex has such a plethora of new and established businesses and has substantial entrepreneurial activity, all of which has made Essex into a thriving business community. We work with several large and small employers across Essex, many of which are national or international organisations with Head Offices in the county.”
Hannah Beamish, Head of Recruitment at Michael Boyd & Partners commented, “So many people just don’t realise the opportunities available outside of London. Graduates particularly seem to dismiss local opportunities because they believe that the money and opportunities are far greater in London.”
One candidate who secured a position in Southend for a Financial Services company through Michael Boyd & Partners is Sam Dansey. Having spent 3 ½ hours a day and over £4200 per year in travel costs commuting from Rayleigh to Charing Cross for 2 years, Sam was tired of the daily and crowded commute. “I seemed to spend my life and wages sitting on trains. I only worked, travelled and slept 5 days a week. I was thrilled when Michael Boyd & Partners sourced a position for me closer to home. The company attracted me, with a leading range of benefits unrivalled by many firms in the capital. Also, being part of a smaller organisation, I can make more of an impact and the outlook of the company is well centred and suits me. I only had to take a salary drop of £2k per year and this was immediately worthwhile since my travelling costs have reduced by 75%. I was also promoted 4 months after joining the company, making me far better off working in Southend.”
But it’s not just about the money, agrees Sam, “I feel I have more energy, and don't dread the prospect of travelling home all day. I have more patience as a result. The outlook I enjoyed in London, is very much present in many people working locally. The company I now work for provides an environment and opportunities that are akin to those in London. Living and working here gives me more disposable income and this has contributed to me being able to buy a house. If I was still in London, I would have little time to dedicate to the important things to me. Working in Southend means I don’t have to prepare for the next 13 hour day and gives me full evenings to spend how I choose.”
If you are working in London or considering working in London, Hannah Beamish, Recruitment Manager at Michael Boyd & Partners, urges you to consider local opportunities as well. “It all depends what someone is trying to achieve by working in London and what sector they are working in. However, I would urge people, especially graduates, to calculate the exact cost of working in London and determine if the benefits really outweigh the costs. Consider also how much you are likely to spend on things such as coffee and lunch as well as travel costs, and consider what you would do with the extra few hours you have each day if you chose to work locally.”
The advice from leading recruitment agency, Michael Boyd & Partners is to do the maths before you dismiss the next local opportunity that comes your way. Most people will likely end up far better off in terms of money and work/life balance by working locally.
Michael Boyd & Partners would welcome any comments relating to this article so please email firstname.lastname@example.org. If would like to be considered for opportunities with leading employers locally, please contact Michael Boyd & Partners on 01268 747456 or visit www.michaelboyd.co.uk
Published in the Echo (January 2008)