Euro-commuting can work
Hacked off with heaving commuter trains, traffic jams and soaring property prices, a growing number of euro-commuters are buying property and setting up home on the continent but continuing to work in the UK.
Crossing land and sea just to get to work in the morning may sound a bit extreme, but fast and frequent transport links to Europe - coupled with an increase in flexible working - is sending us in search of a higher quality of life in more affordable cities across the continent. In fact, a report from the Future Forum commissioned by Thomson Travel predicts there will be 1.5 million people working in the UK, but living overseas by 2016.
Dan Klein, 35, originally from Cambridge has been commuting from Nice in the south of France every week for nearly 10 years. "Depending on where I need to be on a Monday, I fly into either Luton or Leeds Bradford airport and I'm in the office by lunchtime," explains Dan, who is chief operations officer for a company called Crisp Thinking, which produces child-protection technology.
Dan didn't sell up when he left the UK and still has a flat in London that he uses as a base during the week. Dan's trip every Monday and Friday is around three hours door-to-door, and his flight is an hour and 40 minutes. He block-books his flights six months in advance, and a return costs an average of £70 including taxes. "I feel as though I've got the best of both worlds," says Dan. "I enjoy my job in the UK and look forward to the weekends when I can escape to Nice. The beach is 300 metres from my front door and there are three ski resorts within a mile. The French lifestyle is incredible - so relaxing and everything is more accessible."
Dan is not alone in his weekly commute. "There's about 20 other people from all walks of life who do the same journey on a Monday morning. We've become friends and often have get-togethers," he explains. "I would recommend it to anyone."
How does it work?
Euro-commuting could make working a traditional nine-to-five day tricky if you want to return home every day. While Brits commute longer than the rest of Europe anyway, at an average of 45 minutes, if Dan travelled to and from France every day, for example, he'd be travelling an exhausting six hours a day.
But this trend is linked to the increase in flexible working. According to research from First Direct, a third of the UK's employed population now work outside normal nine-to-five hours. Advances in technology also allow us to arrange work around our personal lives instead of the other way around.
"Highly developed telecommunications such as high-speed broadband and video conferencing mean people in more and more professions rarely need to be in the office," says Bob Atkinson, spokesperson from Travelsupermarket.com. "And if you don't need to be in the office, this might mean you don't need to be in the country."
The trend for working from home and achieving the work/life balance is growing all the time. A survey by Mitel Networks found that among office workers who cannot currently work from home, two-in-five would seriously consider moving jobs, and over a quarter would take a cut in salary in order to be able to do so.
Some jobs lend themselves to being able to live overseas and continue to work in the UK, such as writers and editors, for example - but more office-based jobs are realising the benefits of flexible options, such as compressed hours, flexi-time and job sharing, in improving employee motivation and productivity.
Buying a new home
The trendspotting report highlighted a number of hotspots likely to feature in this new international commuter belt. Barcelona is the current leading city, while Palma, Marrakech, Dubrovnik, Faro, Alicante, Verona, Tallinn, Pula and Valencia are also increasingly popular destinations for Brits moving abroad and continuing to work in the UK.
And you can see why. While Barcelona is the most expensive destination on the list, with a three-bedroom semi-detached property in the city centre costing in the region of €610,000 (approximately £413,000), in Alicante you can expect to pay around €254,000 (£172,415), an average €300,000 in Marrakech (approximately £203,640) and €220,000 in Valencia (£149,336), according to overseas property specialist, Baydonhill.
The cost of living is also cheaper in the rest of Europe than in the UK. London comes second only to Moscow as the most expensive place to live in the 2007 Mercer Cost of Living Survey. London also scored pretty badly on the Mercer Quality of Life Survey for 2007, which takes into account factors such as the quality and availability of medical, education and transport services, levels of pollution, housing, the environment and recreational facilities. It came in at number 39, while European cities Vienna, Frankfurt and Brussels, came in at four, seven and 14 respectively.
Of course, it's all very well having a higher yet more affordable quality of life, but you need to factor in the cost and time of travelling to and from your job in the UK to see if such an arrangement will work for you. The nature of your work and the flexibility of your employer will determine how often and for how long you need to be in the UK.
To find out how much it could cost, websites like travelsupermarket.com can help you find a range of flights. Easyjet travels daily from Barcelona to London Heathrow, Manchester and Cardiff with around a two-hour flight time. Air Italy travels daily from Valencia to Stansted with a two-hour flight time, while ThompsonFly travels daily from Faro to Manchester with a three-hour flight-time.
The Eurostar makes France and Belgium even more accessible without having to step foot on a plane. You can now travel from Lille to Waterloo (St Pancras as of mid-November) in around one hour 20 minutes, and from Brussels to London Waterloo or Ashford in Kent in around two hours 20 minutes.
So this euro-commuting lifestyle really is achievable, and those who do it cannot recommend it enough. "I feel very lucky to have struck the ultimate balance between work and life, and think everyone should give it go," says Dan.
So all that's left for you to do is schedule a meeting with your boss.