Here’s a statistic for you:
From 10th of January 2021, 34% of UK workers are now working exclusively from home. This figure comes as business giants, like Spotify and Facebook, announced they’ll be embracing ‘Work from Anywhere’ schemes after the pandemic wanes.
But while most employees are now well-versed with working from home, the shift hasn’t come without its teething problems.
For renters, in particular, there’s been a whole host of challenges to overcome, as well as expectations for how the market can facilitate what lies ahead.
But what exactly are these expectations? Glad you asked. As always, let HomeHero investigate…
WFH & Tenancy Agreements
Pre-covid, many renters only spent a fraction of their time at home. Most of us were either at the office, clinking glasses in a bar or sardined on a tube during rush hour. Aah, those were the days.
For those who don’t know, most, if not all, Assured Tenancy Agreements (ASTs) prohibit tenants from using their residential property for business use.
This clause protects landlords from significant wear and tear, noise complaints or issues regarding planning permission. All of which would land the tenant in a serious breach of their agreement.
But back then, we didn’t have to pay too much attention to this. Businesses and shops were open; offices were full, and no one anticipated that a global pandemic would happen.
But as soon as it did, the line became blurred. The government made WFH mandatory, and it left renters in a confusing predicament. What gives?
The Fine print
To put it simply, ‘working from home’ has a couple of meanings in tenancy agreements, and the legislature depends on which category renters fall into.
If your work is computer-based, such as teaching on Zoom or blogging, then renters should be safe. Similarly, if you’re earning money by selling a few handmade tote bags on Etsy, then this should also be permissible.
However, if you’re using noisy machinery for your work or have deliveries and collections take place at the property, this would classify as a ‘home business’ and, therefore, a breach.
A landlord may also serve an eviction notice if the tenant uses over 40% of the property for business use. Whether it’s using multiple rooms for stock or office space, this would transform a residential property into a commercial one — a big no-no.
Calls For A Reviewal
But over lockdown, these rules may have caused a few problems. Redundancies are at record levels, with employers letting more than 395k workers go between August and November 2020.
But while this may not be easy, revisions of the tenancy agreement may be the best bet. This happened in 2015, when the ‘Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act‘ came into force and introduced the ‘home business tenancy’.
The Act allowed tenants to operate a ‘reasonable’ home business, such as a financial consultancy, internet company or copywriting services — once approved by the landlord, of course.
While this 6-year old legislature has undoubtedly helped renters during the pandemic, the job market’s future is looking bleak.
According to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBS), UK unemployment is likely to reach 2.6 million by June 2021 — 7.5% of the working-age population.
Renters may be expecting more flexibility in how they can earn money from home. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and might tenancy agreements have to change, yet again, to adapt to the economic challenges ahead?
It’s an interesting question to raise.
Prioritising Home Office Space
So, having spent the past year working from an improvised home office, many renters feel confident in what they’ll need from their space moving forward.
They’ll be prioritising furniture, gadgets and space that’ll be sufficient enough to streamline their WFH efforts. If landlords can catch onto this, then it’ll give renters a leg up for the future of workplace culture.
For example, landlords can advertise a 2-bedroom property as a 1-bed with a spacious home office. Doing this will help resolve the widespread issue of renters adapting existing spaces to serve new purposes.
If that doesn’t allow, landlords could supply a desk or large dining room table in a space where natural light is plentiful. It’s these small things tenants will be looking for.
Landlords may even consider providing tenants with smart technology. A recent survey found that 82% of consumers believed there are significant advantages to a home with smart devices, especially when carving out specific work or study space.
Suppose landlords advertised properties with Google Nest’s, smart plugs or light bulbs included in the price. In that case, this will enable renters to work more efficiently and, as a result, will satisfy their expectations.
The Importance of Stable Internet
Equally, landlords could also include the internet in the rental price. A 2018 study revealed that 73% of respondents consider good internet connectivity crucial when choosing a property.
But since people experienced issues with their WiFi connections during the national lockdowns, renters will be extra vigilant in ensuring they secure the best deals.
In another survey, nearly 9 in 10 home workers waste an average of over 30 minutes a day due to slow internet over lockdown, with 12% losing an hour or more.
Not only does this contribute to a loss in business productivity (38%), but it also prohibits workers from connecting with their teams on a professional and personal level.
Zoom team lunches have become a prominent part of our workplace culture, with business psychologist, Stuart Duff, advocating for the importance of touching base with colleagues via video calls.
‘As most of our interactions are now in formal video conference meetings, we miss having opportunities for the fun, ‘spontaneous’ conversations’, he tells the BBC.
‘Having a social lunchtime increases opportunities for spontaneous conversations, which in turn builds and maintains trust between colleagues.’
If unstable internet prevents this, it can contribute to the loneliness that’s gripping the nation. But it could also lead tenants to pack up, end their tenancies and look elsewhere.
A Shift Towards All-Inclusive Living
The same 2018 study revealed that 70% of respondents who worked from home just one day a week would consider leaving if they were not satisfied with internet connectivity — and that’s without the mandatory working from home.
This could potentially be where renters will look more towards all-inclusive living developments, where ultra-fast internet is managed, ready to go and included in the monthly price.
Home office design also plays a part in this. As some tenancy agreements prohibit tenants from painting the walls or hanging up artwork, renters may be yearning for more creative control in a space where they’re supposed to feel inspired, productive and focused.
A splash of colour, bold portraits and biophilic walls are office trends that help promote this, and without decorative freedom, renters may feel more attracted to all-inclusive living developments.
They have designated WFH spaces that can come with natural light, breakout space and infinite coffee — all of which were big office trends before the pandemic hit.
If working from home has earned a permanent spot in our workplace culture, will renters expect their home offices to have it all? If so, all-inclusive living developments is what seals the deal.
Lastly, let’s look at what renters will be expecting from their local areas. As fewer workers commute to the city centres, residential towns will significantly change demand for local amenities.
The Conversation research project looked into this, exploring whether neighbourhoods in the UK will be economically affected for better or worse due to mass working from home — and they call this ‘Zoomshock’.
The study found that The City of London could lose up to over 70% of its labour force if workers continued to work from home post-covid.
This equates to £9.1 billion in annual earnings, as fewer people will be forking out on commutes, lunchtime coffees or gym sessions, and after-work drinks.
As a result, the demand for local amenities will become less concentrated in city centres. Workers will expect hairdressers, bars and restaurants to reside closer to their homes.
For renters, this is something that’ll be at the forefront of their minds for years to come, and landlords will need to reflect the local area’s vibrancy to meet these expectations.
Although this geographical shift is in its early days, landlords will need to reflect the local area’s vibrancy to meet renter expectations.
But if there’s anything that the pandemic has taught us, it’s that we should expect the unexpected. Who knows what the future of remote work will look like, but it’s always good to stay ahead of the game.
Watch this space!