Home Sweet Home. It is our shelter, our sanctuary, our escape from the world and is reputedly where the heart is. But the Covid-19 crisis has caused us to reassess how we interact with that space in so many ways including in a professional context. The rise and prevalence of remote working has shown what can be achieved without crossing the threshold of our front door. What does this mean for how and where we live?
Redefining Home Working
Few would wish to re-create the emergency lockdown makeshift of balancing computers on the kitchen table or precariously on knees whilst perching on the sofa. There have been noises and disruptions, with drying laundry scattered around, and the paraphernalia of personal life in the background. We have all suffered at times from cabin fever and sensory overload. Clearly this ad-hoc approach is not the best long-term strategy for effective homeworking and many increasingly do want to work remotely on a more sustained basis.
A designated room in the house to be used solely as an office is one solution. It presents soundproofed peace and, if carefully devised and arranged, a business-like environment. One which is separated from its domestic counterpart. There is also the chance, physically and mentally, to shut the door on work at the end of the day. And we all do need to switch off at some point. But how to magic up this space?
Space – The First Frontier
One option is for people to upgrade in their existing location which means negotiating a bigger mortgage and taking a harder hit on monthly repayments. This is not always financially viable. With the economy stuttering and redundancies afoot, it may also be a risky step.
Another route is to improve-not-move. This is done by building an extension onto an existing property or converting an attic to be used as an office hub. Basement renovations are also popular when you have no choice but to dig deep. Alternatively, open plan could be ditched with a large footprint split into two smaller rooms to create a work bubble. Once Covid is over (yes, this too will pass), builders may face a welcome upturn in demand for their services as people redesign their homes to meet changing needs.
But some are contemplating more radical solutions. The Office for National Statistics, which is tracking the impact of Covid-19, indicates that office-based employees are now willing to exchange crowded cities for pastures new. Among those planning to work from home, 12% have considered moving to a rural or costal area. Estate agents have seen more buyer registrations for properties in commuter villages and around small market towns. The temporary stamp duty holiday offered by the Chancellor, to kickstart the housing market out of its virus paralysis, has provided a further incentive to up sticks and turn daydreams into reality.
New Home, New Lifestyle
It is not merely the extra legroom that is the draw. As per Rightmove, the online property website, there is a “lure of a new lifestyle, one that is quieter and has an abundance of beautiful countryside and more outdoor space.” If people can work from home more, they may decide to live further out. Thus accepting a longer commute on certain days in return for a mode of living that is calmer, greener and less polluted. In turn this leads to a healthier and less stressful existence. It is an appealing vista.
This approach pans out on more than a personal level with a possible wider economic impact. There is a chance to rebalance house prices in different regions, to reinvigorate local economies and to promote a rural renaissance. Perhaps it is time to update the old saying to Home and Office, Sweet Home and Office.