How BTR developments can support the shift to more working from home

Working from home (WFH) is here to stay. Among the many changes that Covid-19 has brought about in recent months, the shift in how our work and home lives interact has been one of the biggest.

This is more than just changing people’s daily routines. It also has potential to change the spaces we live in, especially in build-to-rent (BTR) developments, which attract many people with jobs that can easily be done remotely.

In 2019, only around 5% of people employed in the UK mainly worked from home. Fast forward to lockdown around April/May 2020, and around 60% of the adult population were doing it. If this was you, chances are you’ve experienced many of the WFH challenges – finding a quiet space, getting all-day comfortable, getting your tech set up – as well as the perks, such as zero commuting and a more flexible working day.

David Phillips Student Living
David Phillips Student Living

More WFH is what people want

As the Covid uncertainty continues, it seems that many people expect to WFH for the foreseeable future. Of the 40% of people still working from home in September 2020, two-thirds expect still to be in their home offices well into 2021 and 12% think it will be forever. But despite the challenges, this new pattern is what many people want. Surveys have shown that most people who can, want to WFH more in the future. They feel more productive and they relish the flexibility. And an overwhelming majority want a balance between home and office working, rather than five days of commuting.

So, if part of the home is always going to be for work, what does this mean for the way interiors are designed and put together, especially in developments where space is at a premium?

Keeping work and chill space apart

First, there’s the question of separation. Lack of a work/life boundary was cited as one of the worst aspects of remote work in a study of start-up companies and their founders – and it’s one of the things they miss most about office working. Given that this group is likely to be made up of digital natives who are very happy to work flexibly, being able to separate the home office from the place where you chill on evenings and weekends is clearly important.

Industry commentators expect growing interest in BTR developments that support working from home, and it’s a trend that David Phillips has responded to, according to Tom Grey, BTR Director: “The shift to home working is already changing the way we’re thinking about furnishing BTR developments”, he says. “As well as offering conventional ranges of furniture for typical apartment layouts, we have now introduced ‘configurable’ furnishing options, so residents can personalise their space and, for example, switch a second bedroom to become an office if that’s what they need. It gives BTR operators a flexible and attractive offer for prospective customers who are more likely than ever to need their home to double as a workspace”.

Flexibility in the smallest spaces

Not every flat can offer a clearly separated workspace. But even the smallest units can be configured to offer much more than the perching on beds and sofas that many people had to put up with when they were compelled to work from home. Tom says: “With clever design and use of space, we can create a comfortable and ergonomic workspace that’s part of a broader living area, for example by using fold-out desks, dining tables with cable access, and seating that’s designed for work use.”

Communal areas can bring back the sociability of the office
People are happy to ditch the daily commute. And they relish the distraction-free peace and quiet that WFH can bring. But what they miss most about the office is the social side. Being in a home workspace five days a week may suit some people, but for many, work is also a chance to chat, swap ideas and build friendships and networks.

This is another area where BTR developments can support the new world of work. Shared spaces are strong selling points for BTR developments. Although they’re not a substitute for the office, they can offer some of its buzz and many of its social aspects. The ability to switch between a workspace in their flat and a bigger communal area makes for a more varied and sociable home-working day. Even if they may currently need to be set up for social distancing, these spaces can be configured in many different ways to enhance residents’ work and home lives.

The new shape of living

It’s widely said that this pandemic will change some things forever. We think living space, especially in BTR developments, is one of them. It’s a positive shift, giving developers a new offer and residents a place they can (comfortably) call both home and work.