“I find being able to work from home more, I am integrated with the things I love,” she says. “COVID-19 probably brought it to a head in terms of, ‘don’t wait anymore’.”
Ms Roach has shared care of daughter Jaimes, 15, and will rent an apartment in Melbourne so they can be together mid-week. Jaimes will be able to enjoy Bairnsdale life at weekends and holidays.
“As I’ve made the announcement [of the new lifestyle] everyone I know is like, ‘Oh, that’s my dream’,” she says.
Data released last week showed the trend towards residents of Melbourne and Sydney leaving the cities was gathering pace.
Melbourne experienced a 30 per cent collapse in the number of people relocating to the city from other parts of the country during the pandemic, while students and people of prime working age are going to regional Victoria.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed a net 7445 people left the Greater Melbourne area through the September quarter, more than three in five of them moving to a regional home.
Ms Roach has noticed employers being far more willing, post the work-from-home boom during lockdown, to prioritise what employees want and need.
“I’ve always been a massive advocate of flexible work because I’m a parent myself. It was generally about what the employer needed but now it’s more balanced.
“The office is saying, ‘I do need you for this face-to-face activity but you can be home for the majority of the time because we’ve seen it work. Life can be a lot more flexible than we assumed,’” she says.
Before COVID-19 an average of 911,000 people travelled into the Melbourne CBD every working day. The Melbourne City Council estimated in December that this figure will fall by 38 per cent.
Ms Roach says more employers are likely to look kindly on staff even at senior levels who want to work chunks of their week remotely.
“It really will be instead of work-life balance, work-life integration,” she says.
Start your day informed
Our Morning Edition newsletter is a curated guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.
Wendy Tuohy is a Sunday Age senior writer.