Long Term Design Trends for Home Working

The need in 2020 for many people to work from home had some positive impact – less time spent commuting means we are free to spend that time on the things that we love and enjoy. Many people have though found that “WFH” is no more desirable than working from an office – the reality not living up to the dream, with interruptions from family, lack of suitable workspace and loneliness all being factors.

The desire for a good work / life balance will always remain, and therefor the need for flexible working and living solutions will too. Changes to how we work going forward are inevitable – but as to what extent this impacts on people’s desire for “an office” in their home is yet to be seen. When thinking of this need from a professional (white collar, middle class) perspective, it is easy to think of the problems and solutions in our own terms – but the fact is only 15% of people in the U.K have an office as their primary place of work.

Given the choice, many people would of course prefer to have an office rather than not, but some would have little or no use for it, and most would likely use it for purposes other than as an office. Even amongst those that would find it useful, we question whether they would they be prepared for the uplift in cost that it would bring.

Within London the cost of a 3-bed house is on average 10% higher than a 2-bed, and for the U.K average it is a 30% uplift. Buying a bigger house to add home working space may work for some but will not be affordable for all – even with a possible move to a slightly less central / urban area (another widely discussed post-Covid trend) taken into account.

Factoring in most people’s desire for human contact, a full-time home office is unlikely to be the preferred full-time solution. Well designed, flexible working spaces for occasional use (whether that’s infrequently, or two or three days per week) are likely to be more than adequate for most, can be provided at little uplift to total housing cost, and would also add value to people that would have no use for a home office.

Well-designed homes are ones that consider the differing needs of its occupants, allows flexibility for change to suit a certain set of circumstances (a global pandemic for example) or allowing for change over time (lifetime homes).

In our opinion the biggest design trend we are likely to see post Covid is a desire for more space, and better design – allowing the flexibility to provide suitable, and adaptable working space

Layout / Design Ideas to provide better spaces.

  • To make future homes more flexible, traditional housebuilding needs better ‘bones’ – i.e. slightly oversized footprints and floor to floor heights (maximising use of vertical space), rather than just meeting the minimum standards. Increasing the widths of spaces by small amounts massively increases their usability and flexibility.
  • Use of Interstitial & forgotten spaces – The space under the stairs as a foldaway desk space, or a slightly more generous first floor landing to house a shared family study / work area for example.
  • A move away from open plan – to a series of joined yet separate spaces with defined quiet areas in which to work away from the buzz of day-to-day family life.
  • Flexible use of the Garage as a utility / workspace – not everybody has a car, and many that do don’t use a garage.
  • Separate Utility rooms – to remove the constant background noise of the washing machine and tumble dryer, and to provide drying space.
  • Bedrooms with options to close off areas as quiet, private space.
  • En-suite bathrooms / dressers as add on options for new schemes (as opposed to coming as standard), alongside the option for a home office if needed – For some people a home office space may be more desirable than a 2nd (or 3rd) bathroom.
  • Acoustics need to be better considered to allow for multiple people potentially working in the house at the same time (whether for work or school)
  • Spending more time indoors, particularly during the winter, adds importance to the quality and flexibility of lighting design. In addition, as spaces become more flexible, lighting will too.
  • Smarter storage solutions based upon more than simply those required within the space standards – Secure external storage should also be considered, which could incorporate delivery points to allow for modern shopping habits.
  • With some people spending more time at home, daylight and external views should be better considered, with less deep and narrow spaces, and natural light solutions used (skylights / sun-tubes) where this is not possible.
  • The nature of outdoor space (singular – open plan) could change to be more compartmentalised like the interior space, with pockets of different types of space allowing different uses – internal courtyards, green natural gardens, outside gyms and covered terraces.
  • As many people spend more time in their homes, increased awareness of energy consumption, sustainability and wellness will accelerate the trend towards low energy, efficient homes that have stronger connections with the natural environment. 
  • For multi-unit schemes, developers should also consider the provision of community spaces. This could be as simple as communal amenity space, but could for bigger schemes extend to flexible co-working, exercise and activity spaces.