It happens to us all at some point. With new additions to the family, assorted piles of clutter and working from home like never before, ... Read Feature
Many of us are working from home with less than satisfactory work spaces, and the trend doesn’t look like it’s changing any time soon. What can you do to maximise your space to create the environment you need without compromising on your work/life balance, asks Georgina Blaskey
Good London Builders – A garden room is the ultimate working from home solution – if you have space
When we all started working from home, it didn’t take long for the kitchen table to become a fought-over space – those without a separate home office soon found themselves working alongside their homeschooled children and perhaps their partner too. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) online Labour Market Survey (LMS), in April 2020 46.6% of people in employment did some work at home, rising to 57.2% for people living in London. Of those who did some work from home, 86% did so as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Women were slightly more likely to do some work at home than men, 47.5% and 45.7% respectively.
Jump to the end of August, and we had the CBI boss leading calls for UK workers to return to the office while revealing she would only be going back herself for two days a week from September. Dame Carolyn Fairbairn explained a return to work is “about balance between flexible working and office working”.
According to an audit by the Daily Mail, firms opting to keep most staff working from home for the rest of the year include NatWest, which employs almost 50,000; BT, which has 40,000 staff at home; KPMG, which has only 10 per cent of its 16,000 staff in the office; and Vodafone, whose 7,850 staff are almost all at home. Tech giant Microsoft has said it will not start returning its 3,000 UK staff to their desks until at least November.
A separate survey by the BBC found that 50 of the country’s biggest employers have no plans to return all staff to the office full time. Even for those who are going back, many expect to only have a day or two a week at the office, or to meet colleagues at more convenient co-working spaces.
Not surprisingly, this has had a massive knock-on effect on what potential buyers are looking for when thinking about moving. The traditional Victorian terrace between the commons isn’t able to deliver the flexibility people are now looking for in their homes. “The recurring theme of the Nappy Valley market, the raison d’etre if you like, is the core market of three to five bed houses, between £1.25-75m,” explains Patrick Rampton of Rampton Baseley. “However, these houses don’t have much flexibility when it comes to layout. The new trend is A, buying the bigger houses (£1.75-2.5m), and B, being quite demanding about layout. This is because during times of crisis and/or anxiety (Brexit/Covid) people don’t really do the first option. They stay put and suffer or stay put and extend. However, the market eruption has seen massive pent up demand for the bigger houses. BUT, and this is where B comes in, because the world is still an uncertain place and Covid/Brexit aren’t going away anytime soon, the buyers are VERY picky. They want work from home (WFH) space either in the house or in the garden. Therefore, they want flexible space and big gardens in which to install offices. And not just for the adults – kids now need them too.”
Having older children at home more, as well as at least one parent working from home, has meant that multiple suitable spaces are in demand. The ultimate home office set-up is a purpose-built and ergonomically designed basement room, near the WiFi and away from the open-plan kitchen. For those who don’t have a basement, there are other appealing options to work with. Renters are also keen to create a dedicated area to work. “Renters are looking for rooms with a lot of natural light but if there isn’t an option to have a whole room, they would at least want space in the dining room/living room to set up their desks so their office is located on the ground floor,” explained Medleen Brereton from Portico.
We are seeing the bedroom in the loft (which was the guest bedroom) becoming the favoured room to be the office, for the main reason of it being furthest away from the noise downstairs!” explains Charles Streatfeild of Marsh & Parsons. “For those with big enough gardens, lockdown has forced an increasing number of homeowners to include an office or even gym space at the end of the garden, which gets a positive reaction from buyers. This is the cheaper option for homeowners over doing the loft or basement, but you have to have a decent enough garden size so as not to compromise the outdoor space.”
Developer Rory Gordon of Good London Builders champions the idea and has noted an increase in popularity. “For me a home office in a garden room is a no brainer. It is cost effective to build and to increase the square footage of your overall property. Permission can be obtained under permitted development. If things do go back to normal it can be used as a gym, cinema room or even a spare room!”
A garden room is a great option if you have some spare outdoor space and can justify the cost (which you may well make back if you own and come to sell the property). Not only can a garden room be erected fairly quickly, from a matter of hours to a couple of weeks, it’ll probably cost around £10-12,000. “Whereas a loft conversion or basement is an expensive, long-term building project, a garden room can be erected in a short time and at a low cost,” says Rachel Wichall from eDEN Garden Rooms. The good news is you don’t need planning permission, because installing a garden office falls under permitted development regulations in most cases. “The most important factor is the space available,” says Michelle Lord from Pod Space. “That will usually govern the size of the building that can be installed.” However, keep in mind that companies using a modular design will create panels off-site – so access to your garden might affect how big these can be – while others will build everything from scratch on location.
However big your house, there are options available to you. Find the one that works best for your property and your work needs – while restoring a little family harmony along the way!
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