The growth of hybrid and remote working projected after Covid could change not only the office, but how homes are designed.
A report published this week by accountancy group Grant Thornton shows that over a third of UK mid-sized firms expect to reduce their office space in the wake of Covid. The poll of more than 275 business leaders saw 74% of those who said they expect to reduce their occupied space say they anticipate reducing their office footprint by as much as a quarter, while 12% say they are likely to reduce their space by up to half.
Other research suggests similar changes as employers look to implement so-called hybrid working, enabling workers to work more days from home, with offices set to become places for collaboration, connection and creativity. News emerged this week that KPMG is to invest £44m to replace office desks with meeting rooms and space for presentations as part of a permanent move to hybrid working at the firm. Their UK chair Bill Michael said: “What we’re trying to do with our buildings is not to think of them as a place to work in as buildings. It’s a place now to collaborate [and] to use technology to network.” Many other employers are still unsure of when they can start implementing the changes because of uncertainty over Covid and the need to ensure space for social distancing.
But it is clear that the long-term outlook is for more remote working. That will not only have implications for office design, but for home design.
A recent study by MoneySuperMarket found more than a fifth of people’s homes has been given over to homeworking and homeschooling on average during the Covid pandemic. In flats space is even more squeezed with the survey estimating over a third (32.4%) of their home is dedicated to home working.
For many the solution is to extend their homes and reports suggest searches for home extensions have increased significantly over the last year. But many can’t afford this course of action. The ideal is to have a dedicated space for work and for home learning, even if it is the corner of a table.
Many have been forced to work in spaces that are altogether unsuitable for long-term working during lockdown – whether that is on their bed [with associated back problems] or in the corner of a noisy shared flat [meaning prolonged used of earphones and the mute button], making homeworking a very different experience to those with reams of space.
As remote working becomes more normalised, home design will have to incorporate multifunctional use of space. Houses may need to be bigger; architects will have to be more creative with the space available. That still leaves many with ongoing space issues. Co-working spaces are one solution as are any number of other possibilities, from hub offices to reusing high street spaces and helping to revive local town centres. Creative solutions will be needed which bring together different strands of potential post-Covid problems.