Home office: homeworkers in the Alps

How the Swiss mountain region could benefit from the new home office culture and climate change.

Aristocrats have always known it: in summer it is more pleasant to live in cooler climates, even in climatically temperate Switzerland. In the 18th century, it was part of the patrician lifestyle to move from the city palace to the green, hilly campagne over the summer. Gradually, a broad bourgeoisie also discovered this seasonal exodus from the cities for itself. And since the first holidays were introduced in 1879 – for federal civil servants – not only are our lives divided into working and holiday periods, but the whole country is divided into an everyday and a time-out Switzerland. Separated along the altitude curves.

Above stands for fresher air in summer, sun and snow in winter. Below stands for stuffy heat and high fog over the midlands.

And because three-quarters of people in Switzerland live and work at altitudes between just under 400 metres above sea level (Geneva) and not quite 700 metres above sea level (St. Gallen), they are drawn to the sky at weekends or during holidays.

[“But there’s more.”] [“Climate change and the home office culture newly established in the Corona crisis open up new perspectives for the mountain region. In other words, those regions above 800 meters above sea level that cover 71 percent of the country’s surface, but where only a quarter of the population has its primary residence; a total of two million people. “] [“In Switzerland, discussions about the mountain region are mostly about disadvantages. About steep slopes and winding access routes, which have to be compensated for by complicated transfer mechanisms. Domestic money flows ensure that living conditions at the top, where tourism, agriculture and calendar sheet subjects dominate, are basically the same as at the bottom, where a broad-based service and precision industry in a settlement mash generates the country’s high material prosperity. “]

Thanks to this redistribution from the bottom to the top, Switzerland has a high-altitude infrastructure compared to other Alpine countries such as Austria, Italy or France: from the Volg shop and the post agency to the well-developed road and rail network and broadband Internet access. However, this infrastructure – not just the much-cited, multi-million-dollar railway tunnels through Furka and Vereina – is only partially used to capacity in the holiday months and at peak weekends. The same applies to the 500,000 second homes counted by the Federal Office for Spatial Development and their much-criticised cold beds.

But this could soon be over.

For a short century, winter sports were the main focus of attention when people talked about tourism in the mountains, but now climate change is driving people up in the summer as well.

Roughly speaking, the temperature in Switzerland decreases by an average of 0.5 degrees per 100 metres of altitude. This means that if it is 30 degrees in the Central Plateau, the thermometer shows 27.5 degrees at 1000 metres, 25 degrees at 1500 metres and just 23.5 degrees at 1800 metres.

If average temperatures in this country rise by one to over three degrees in the next 30 years, as calculated by the federal government in its scenarios, this means, for example In La Chaux-de-Fonds, at an altitude of just under 1000 metres, the climate will then be the same as it is today in nearby Neuchâtel at 500 metres.

[“As in the Jura, numerous low-lying valley villages along the Alps are only a stone’s throw away from their mountainous summer resorts. In French-speaking Switzerland, Les Avants (1000 metres) and Leysin (1400 metres) lie in the Lausanne hinterland. In the Bernese Oberland, summer visitors are drawn from Interlaken to Wengen (1300 metres) or Mürren (1600 metres). The Rigi with its villages of Kaltbad and Scheidegg (1400 to 1800 metres) is the local mountain of Lucerne and Zug, and both Flims-Laax (1100 metres) and Lenzerheide (1500 metres) are close to Chur.”]

So anyone who does not have to work in the office for two or even three days a week after the Corona crisis can retreat to over 1000 metres above sea level. Surrounded by the ringing of cowbells instead of motorway noise and without the annoying hum of fans or fear of catching a cold.

In the Central Plateau, the new homeworking can help to break the peaks in commuter traffic, which require increasingly expensive extensions to the transport network. In mountain areas, a mixed use of second homes as holiday homes and places of work should help to make better use of the infrastructure, which tends to be oversized.

Image source: https://bit.ly/3g5ZtbO

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