31 March 2020

My home is where the heart is

Steve Halsall

Red Tiger Consulting


Mark Thurstain-Goodwin of Geofutures Ltd published some insight on LinkedIn last week on the location of second homes and voiced his concerns about people leaving our cities to socially isolate in these second homes. Check out These are the areas at risk of in-migration from second home owners, and pressure on local services. 

This latest blog outlines two of Red Tiger Talent’s hypotheses on additional migrations caused by coronavirus. These are more qualitative observations, based on the conversations we have been having with candidates and clients over the last couple of weeks.

The current lockdown provides plenty of time for thought. I have been thinking back to my time at University. Yes, I have a good memory, as it was a long time ago! What would I have done if a virus pandemic had happened then? I was also thinking back to my time living in London when in my first job at DTZ and what I would have done in the same situation.

In any time of crisis, no matter how small, I would naturally seek comfort with my parents back in the family home. I suspect I would not be the only one doing that in such a situation, but appreciate I am fortunate in that I come from a good family home. My decision would be fuelled by a strong affinity to the home where I spent a significant proportion of my teenage years. Compared to student or rental accommodation where average length of tenure is much less. And the reality for me would have been that the family collective might be the best way to socially, emotionally and practically get through this.

Should I stay or should I go? 

The last few weeks of the coronavirus lock down will have seen movement of a significant number of students and young professionals back to their parent’s homes. I’m sure it has caused a bit of a conundrum. Go back home and risk introducing the virus to more vulnerable age groups, or wider isolated communities, or stay in often more cramped solitary or shared living conditions away from the comfort of your family home. The analyst in me would love to look at some of the mobile app data (provided by www.huq.io ) to see this assumed migration in real-time and try to understand how it varies by academic institution.

This data has been used on a range of retail related projects and could certainly be a way to identify a sample of students (or at least people attending academic institutions), determine where they live during term time and what they have done since the onset of this pandemic. My assertions are a departure from my typical quantitative approach and are based on a handful of conversations I have had over the last few weeks where I am often speaking to people who are not currently in their ‘main’ residency.

These people can be summarised into two distinct cohorts:

  • Students – With Universities on lockdown and a move to online teaching this has meant that a significant number of students have moved back to their parents’ home.  Universities are trying to get to grips with which of their students remain at University and which have returned home. 
    Speaking to academic staff, some halls of residence are now shut, which forces the issue, but some remain open.  This is a significant student health and wellbeing issue for Universities and Colleges as some of the students may not be able to get back home (particularly overseas students) or may not have a suitable home to go to.   It does seem like there are a variety of approaches across different academic institutions.   
  • City Renters – These will usually be people who are young professionals yet to get on the housing ladder, as they often work in the UK’s major cities where property prices are typically higher.  I have spoken to a large number of London based candidates who have used the directive to work from home and the prohibition of travelling to work unless absolutely necessary, in order to relocate back to their parents.    
    This could be for the reasons I outlined earlier, more often than not ‘home is where the heart is’. However other reasons could be to get out of the London ‘Covid’ hotspot, reducing the chance of contracting the virus and potentially moving to an area where there is currently less stress on our medical services. Or just to get to a less claustrophobic environment where there may be more garden and open space. 

The Risks vs the Benefits 

What will be the impact of these movements? The truth is no-one knows. I certainly mirror Mark Thurstain-Goodwin’s concern about asymptomatic virus carriers transmitting the virus to other locations, particularly those areas with higher concentrations of high-risk individuals.

There is also the on-going issue of having the right medical resources in the right locations. For areas with a large in-migration of people, there may be a lack of adequate healthcare resources to support a strong local outbreak as a result.

My main hope is that those who have done this migration have adhered to the recommendations about social isolation for a period of time to ensure that you are not an asymptomatic carrier before re-introduction into the family home. The recommendations are also to try and travel back via personal rather than public transport which is difficult to do if you are one of the many city dwellers who solely rely on public transport.

I read of a family funeral that recently took place (presumably before tightening of attendance at funerals) which infected a significant number of family members where a number of other deaths have also sadly resulted. Whilst there should never be blame (or proof) attributed to virus ‘introducers’ I personally would find it very hard if I knew that I was responsible for introducing the virus that had resulted in a fatality.

The benefits to going back to your parents are significant, otherwise no-one would do it. The biggest benefit to me is the emotional support and the feel-good of being at home. There may be more space (unless your parents have downsized), so it allows you to have more opportunity to lock yourself away to study or do work. There could also be more public or garden space to get outside without the risk of meeting other people. My thoughts flash back to the photos, post lockdown, in some of London’s parks where the sheer volume of people was astounding! There is the strong likelihood that most of your meals will be made for you – a bit like a hotel but without the fees! I for one have struggled with being in the right ‘headspace’ to plan our meals for a week and then there is no guarantee that the items you require will be in stock.

There are social isolation benefits – larger households mean less people shopping. The rationing being put on certain items does make it a challenge for larger households, although the likely shopping destination may be a larger supermarket, which should have more space and more staff to help with disinfecting, rather than a convenience store.

My wife can vouch for the fact that on the rare occasion I am ill I am a terrible patient – I just want to be left alone. My only memory of being a good patient is as a child when my Mum used to pat my forehead with a cold flannel whenever I had a fever. That is what I would crave if I was really sick. Sadly, this would not be the recommended approach unless you know that your Mother has already had Covid-19.

This is fundamentally a geographic challenge. Firstly, we need to understand migration patterns (memories of Prof Phil Rees!) Secondly, there is a location-allocation problem; forecasting demand for goods or services. We are experiencing this on a daily basis at the moment with the NHS and support services. They are struggling to ensure that physical resources, be it trained medical staff, ICU beds, PPE, Ventilators etc. are in the right locations at the right time to service demand. As traditional location planning practitioners, we are often dealing with relatively stable inputs to the location-allocation challenge. Demand is relatively stable, supply is relatively fixed and easy to forecast. Resources needed to service demand are relatively easy to come by, but with something like a virus we are witnessing first-hand how the situation changes in real-time to make the challenge much harder.

If any of what we discussed here resonates we would love to hear from you, particularly if you are from one of the two groups identified above. We would love you to share your thoughts on measures you have implemented to minimise risks and also any other benefits of being back at home.

Author: Steve Halsall

Header Image: Photo by Kelly Lacy from Pexels

Article Tags

Back to All Posts

Published by Steve Halsall

Steve is the founder of Red Tiger Consulting. He has worked in Location Planning for over 20 years – both on the consultancy side and client side. His passion is building successful teams that evolve their capability (skills, software and data) to meet the ever changing requirements of analysis. In his spare time he is mainly kept busy with his two children, falling in and out of love with Liverpool FC and at some point he wants to re-start his golfing ‘career’.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *