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Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the Government have issued statements telling people they can only got to work if they “cannot work from home” (GOV.UK, 2020). This has caused a drastic change, with the majority of the UK’s workforce now working remotely. Will Coronavirus change the way we work permanently?

 

(Sabelskaya, undated).

Working from home trend.

In 2019, 1.7 million people worked from home (ONS, 2020). Working from home is a trend which has “been steadily on the rise in the last few years”, with 4.3% working from home in 2015 compared with 5.1% in 2019 (Fawcett, 2020).

 

(Hutson, 2020).

Will working from home continue?

We have seen an influx of meetings and communication tools (from Zoom, Google and Microsoft), making working from home easier. All have made their services free in the hope that companies will continue with them after the crisis ends (Hern, 2020). By employees working from home half of their time, the “typical company saves about $11,000” per employee per year (Jacobson, 2020). Many employees are also enjoying cost savings and the flexibility of working from home (Jacobson, 2020). With benefits to both employer and employee, why wouldn’t we stick with working from home?

 

(Ooma.com, undated).

How could Covid-19 change workplaces?

With density and social contact being the crux of the transmission of this virus many questions are raised. “Will homes need to adapt to better accommodate work? … Will we no longer want to live so densely packed together, working in open-plan offices and cramming into lifts?” (Wainwright, 2020).

Recently, we have seen a sharp increase in co-working spaces e.g. hot-desking. However, after this pandemic, “are companies really going to want to put their entire team in one place?” (Wainwright, 2020). Will we see a restructuring of our offices back to old-style cubical working, with “wider corridors and doorways” and “contactless pathways”, through the implementation of more motion sensor doors and smart lifts (Wainwright, 2020)? Or will companies stick with the new norm of working from home?

 

(Freepik, undated).

What will happen to office buildings?

In 2017, we saw changes to permitted development rules which allowed for offices to be converted into residential buildings, without planning approval (Planning Portal, undated). This highlights the oversupply in office space before Covid-19 came into play. With the potential for more companies to work remotely, creating even lower demand for office space, will we see a higher proportion of offices turn into residential use with the “urgent need to increase the rate of house building in England” (DCLG, 2013). Without offices, will cities turn into ghost towns and do we further risk the demise of highstreets?


References:

Alsop, L. (2014). Is your Facebook page a ghost town? Available at: https://imaginalmarketing.com/blog/2014/04/30/social-media-tips/. Accessed on: 27/04/20.

Department for Communities and Local Government [DCLG]. (2013). Relaxation of planning rules for change of use from offices to residential, Impact Assessment. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/207922/Relaxation_of_planning_rules_for_change_of_use_from_offices_to_residential_-_impact_assessment.pdf. Accessed on: 28/04/20.

Fawcett, K. (2020). The Remote Working Report. Available at: https://www.businesscomparison.com/uk/blog/remote-working-report/. Accessed on: 27/04/20.

Freepik. (undated). Available at: https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/many-office-buildings-city_6052383.htm#page=1&query=building&position=17. Accessed on: 27/04/20.

GOV.UK. (2020). Coronavirus (COVID-19): what you need to do. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus. Accessed on: 27/04/20.

Hern, A. (2020). Covid-19 could cause permanent shift towards home working. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/mar/13/covid-19-could-cause-permanent-shift-towards-home-working. Accessed on: 27/04/20.

Hutson, S. (2020). What Online Government Meetings Mean For Public Participation And The Digital Divide. Available at: https://www.kuer.org/post/what-online-government-meetings-mean-public-participation-and-digital-divide#stream/0. Accessed on: 27/04/20.

Jacobson, L. (2020). As coronavirus forces millions to work remotely, the US economy map have reached a ‘tipping point’ in favor of working from home. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/23/what-coronavirus-means-for-the-future-of-work-from-home.html. Accessed on: 27/04/20.

Kessler, D. (2020). Work from Home. Available at: https://www.imore.com/work-from-home. Accessed on: 27/04/20.

Office of National Statistics [ONS]. (2020). Coronavirus and homeworking in the UK labour market: 2019. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/articles/coronavirusandhomeworkingintheuklabourmarket/2019. Accessed on: 27/04/20.

Ooma.com. (undated) Coworking Productivity Hacks – Productive in Cowork Spaces | Ooma. Available at: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/830491987506820277/. Accessed on: 30/04/20.

Planning Portal. (undated). Change of use. Planning Permission. Available at: https://www.planningportal.co.uk/info/200130/common_projects/9/change_of_use/2. Accessed on: 27/04/20.

Sabelskaya. (undated). Flat people working from home remote work vector image. Available at: https://www.vectorstock.com/royalty-free-vector/flat-people-working-from-home-remote-work-vector-20540292. Accessed on: 27/04/20.

Wainwright, O. (2020). Smart lifts, lonely workers, no towers or tourists: architecture after coronavirus. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/apr/13/smart-lifts-lonely-workers-no-towers-architecture-after-covid-19-coronavirus. Accessed on: 28/04/20.

Womble Bond Dickinson. (2017). Updated on permitted development rights for office to residential use. Available at: https://www.womblebonddickinson.com/uk/insights/articles-and-briefings/update-permitted-development-rights-office-residential-use. Accessed on: 27/04/20.

One response to “The Work from Home Future”

  1. Thanks for sharing Kate!

    I agree that even after the current pandemic slows down, employers may look to keep employees working from home more than before. Companies with well invested IT systems have been able to adapt quickest to the pandemic and have remained reasonably productive throughout. Twitter have announced recently their employees will be allowed to work from home forever, if they wish [1]. Only time will tell as to how successful this will be, as consequences such as issues with productivity and mental health may start to take their toll.

    I would expect employers to retain limited office space or look to relocate out of city centres, rather than discarding office spaces entirely. By moving offices to more residential areas, employers will save money on rent and will have space to ensure that they can comply with social distancing. The decentralisation of services may see the appearance of smaller business hubs within multi-functional neighbourhoods, helping to fulfil the 20-minite neighbourhood mission [2]. This change may also make commuting safer for employees as there will be an ease to currently crowded public transport.

    Taking this one step further, it is also important to note the live-work alternative housing model we explored during our module, ARC 8069, which could lead the way in enabling employees to work from home. Developments such as Forest Mews [3], create a communal work environment within a shared space which relieve the resident of the unhealthy consequences of working in their own bedroom or apartment.

    References:
    [1] Paul, K., 2020. Twitter announces employees will be allowed to work from home ‘forever’. The Guardian, [online] Available at: < https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/may/12/twitter-coronavirus-covid19-work-from-home> [Accessed 21 May 2020].
    [2] Planning. 2020. 20-Minute Neighbourhoods. [online] Available at: <
    https://www.planning.vic.gov.au/policy-and-strategy/planning-for-melbourne/plan-melbourne/20-minute-neighbourhoods> [Accessed 21 May 2020].
    [3] Mairs, J., 2016. Robert and Jessica Barker build trio of London houses including live-work space for themselves. Dezeen, [online] Available at: <
    https://www.dezeen.com/2016/07/14/forest-mews-robert-jessica-barker-baca-architects-stolon-studio-live-work-space-south-london-england-uk/> [Accessed 21 May 2020].

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School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

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Email: nicola.rutherford@ncl.ac.uk


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