In 2020, enforced by lockdown and encouraged by the Government’s furlough scheme, companies all over the UK had to make rapid plans for remote working and the Zoom phenomenon was born (other methods of online conferencing are available!).
But with the Coronavirus restrictions slipping further back into the memory, is the trend of home working set to continue? And if it does, what effect will it have on the housing market?
Last year, according to the Office for National Statistics, between September 2022 and January 2023, 44% of working adults reported that they had worked from home wholly (16%) or in part (28%).
Workers in the highest income bands, those with degrees and professionals, were the most likely to work remotely exclusively or in a hybrid arrangement.
Resistant to pressures
However in a separate survey, the ONS also points out that throughout 2022, the percentage of adults reporting having worked from home had varied between 25% and 40%, without any apparent upward or downward trend, indicating that working from home is resistant to pressures like the end of covid restrictions or rises in the cost of living. And in our post-Covid restriction world, it is hybrid working which is becoming the employment pattern of choice.
Attracted by more flexibility and being free of the dreaded commute, staff and employers appear to have settled on a compromise. But how does this affect the housing market?
The housing market
The lockdown restrictions of the pandemic generated a ‘Race for Space’ and the housing market boomed with buyers looking for larger properties and larger outdoor areas.
But now, two years on, the cost-of-living crisis and last Autumn’s disastrous mini-Budget have changed the market dramatically. So, what are today’s home workers looking for now?
FJP Investments conducted some research in 2021 and found that buyers were definitely taking home working into account when looking for a new home.
Director Jamie Johnson said: “Evidently, the advent of remote working has had a tangible impact in what type of residential properties buyers – particularly younger ones – are looking to invest in. Looking ahead, homebuyers’ changing imperatives are likely to accelerate developer innovation.”
Over 40% of respondents said they valued both indoor and outdoor space more than ever before.
Presumably, they are factoring in an office room, ‘work zone’ or even a garden office into their calculations.
And for some, home working offers the possibility of relocation to a completely new area – according to FJP’s data, 17% of people said they would consider moving to a different area, although fewer employers are offering fully remote roles these days, preferring the hybrid model.
Nevertheless, Johnson believes that there are property investment opportunities within the changing buyer preferences.
He said: “As the most restrictive days of the pandemic recede into memory, now is the time for property investors and the real estate sector as a whole to anticipate the changing dynamics of the working from home revolution, and how it will influence people’s relationship with their homes and physical workplaces.
“Clear opportunities are emerging that should be harnessed to build future-facing homes that will suit the evolving requirements and preferences of remote workers, as the dust settles on a new kind of buying market.” said Johnson.
But while many employers support remote working, they certainly don’t support employees working in isolation – so connectivity in the form of a strong broadband signal is vital and this is something that home buyers are insisting on, too.
According to Fine & Country, superfast broadband delivered by fibre optic is becoming a major consideration for buyers.
Linda Bullamore, Property Administrator at Fine & Country St Neots, has noticed that more and more buyers are asking about broadband speeds before purchasing a house.
“While a good broadband speed may not add value to a property, it can certainly help to sell it faster,” she explained.