Many more of us may be working from home in the future as coronavirus looks set to change our lives for the next few months — and leave a lasting effect.
Government warnings suggest that, at its peak, the virus could oblige 20 per cent of the working population to operate remotely — that’s 6.5 million out of a 32.5 million workforce, according to official figures. This would be a massive rise on the current 1.54 million today.
However, the ubiquitous iPad and iPhone, the widespread use of simple tele-conferencing through apps such as Skype and Zoom, plus software that allows you to monitor projects and keep in touch with teams across time zones and countries, all mean that it’s never been easier to operate from home.
Room with a view: A purpose-built fully equipped garden office could transform your working life
‘I have one client who runs a multi-million-pound business using a laptop and mobile phone from a study in his house that’s no bigger than 10 sq ft,’ says Marc Schneiderman, a director of the Arlington Residential estate agency in London.
He says most buyers now expect a workspace in a property on sale, not just for remote access to their business, but to offer a private space away from the family, too.
What’s more, working from home can be positively good if you get it right. So what are the best spaces to use?
Under the Stairs
Perfect for anyone working from a small property or needing an office downstairs in order to keep an eye on children, it’s easy to modify an existing compact space for office kit that can slide out of sight.
Interior fit-out firms can make the most efficient use of a small area or this can be a simple DIY project.
Fit Out A Loft
Estate agents say if a bedroom is used for an alternative purpose — typically an office — it should involve standalone desks and cupboards, so the room be easily return to its original condition. This means that when you come to sell, the asking price can reflect the property’s true worth.
In a loft, you are advised to have it ‘boarded’ — this strengthens the floor which may not have been built for bearing weight — and you may be obliged to have fitted office furniture to make the best use of limited space.
Designer Garden Office
This is increasingly popular, with the Starling Bank saying 104,000 micro-businesses and sole traders exclusively run their business from their garden.
Most do not require planning consent because they are small, single-storey and not on permanent foundations, so can be constructed under ‘permitted development’ rights.
As a bonus, if they’re cleverly designed and furnished, they can double as summer houses, too.
Purpose-built garden offices cost from £12,000 upwards and there are many firms building customised versions.
They require light and heating and, depending on your work, an uninterruptible power supply, and possibly chunky locks if they are some way from your house.
Convert The Shed
Many people have home offices where they used to keep their deckchairs and mower. This includes the UK’s poet laureate, Simon Armitage.
‘It’s been a great pleasure and great fun to throw open the doors (OK, door) of the shed to so many creative visitors.
I think most of them thought the shed was just a metaphor for something more comfortable or literary. But it’s an actual shed,’ he says.
A shed will, of course, be substantially cheaper than a customised garden office. Starling Bank says business owners operating from sheds spend an average £3,343 on construction and renovation, but in return typically save £8,738 a year on the rent they would pay for a similar sized commercial office, plus thousands more on commuting costs.
On the market… with no commute
£825,000: Recently refurbished, this four- bedroom house dating from the 1960s in Liphook has a home office in the back garden, as well as a kitchen leading to an enclosed decking area. Hamptons.co.uk, 01428 260271.
£799,000: This pretty four-bedroom house in Maldon has original features and a picturesque garden, but there’s also a workshop now transformed into a modern office. Savills, 01245 293233.£799,000