Richard Shearmur, Priscilla Ananian, Ugo Lachapelle, Manuela Parra-Lokhorst, Florence Paulhiac, Diane-Gabrielle Tremblay, Alastair Wycliffe-Jones

Jul 16, 2021
Urban Studies
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Urban Studies, Ahead of Print. In March 2020, many workers were suddenly forced to work from home. This brought into stark relief the fact that urban economic activity is no longer attached to specific workplaces. This detachment has been analysed in research on organisations and workers, but has not yet been incorporated into concepts used to document and plan the economic geography of cities. In this article, three questions are explored by way of an original survey: first, how can a shift in the location of economic activity be measured at the urban scale whilst incorporating the idea that work is not attached to a single location? Second, what is the nature of the shift that occurred in March 2020? Third, what does this tell us about concepts that have underpinned the study of urban economic form by geographers and planners? Applying concepts developed in organisation studies and sociology, we operationalise the idea that economic activity happens across multiple spaces: it occurs within a probability space, and since March 2020 it has shifted within this space. To better understand and interpret the longer term impact of this shift on cities – downtowns in particular – we draw upon interviews with people working from home.
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