As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have had to switch to remote working, in order to keep employees safe. Many businesses have had to adapt to a home-working model rapidly, but will remote working become part of the new normal?
Is Remote Working Permanent?
A survey by 451 Research polled 575 IT decision-makers across a range of industries and found that 67% of respondents think that remote working is here to stay as a permanent fixture.
Some large companies, including Twitter and Square, have already made the decision to allow their employees to work from home permanently, even once the pandemic is over. Businesses are opting to keep remote working part of their plans, due to employees reporting higher levels of happiness and a better work-life balance.
Even for companies who do plan to bring staff back into the workplace, remote working is going to be a reality for a long time. 20% of respondents to the survey reported that their organisations would continue through 2021 with altered working conditions, including remote work.
47% of respondents said their organisations plan to reduce their physical office space, so for those who return to the workplace will find it a very different place.
Many companies are putting off a return to normal for many different reasons. There are currently extensive safety measures required to get offices open again, and not all companies are in a position to fulfil these.
Remote working also has a lot of advantages, which are encouraging organisations to stick with it into the new normal. One of the significant benefits is widening the talent pool available when it comes to hiring. Hiring only from those within commuting distance can be very restrictive. Being able to access talent from anywhere in the country gives you a significant competitive advantage. You could even access talent from other countries.
Offering options for remote work can also help you to attract and retain competitive talent. Many workers prefer the opportunity to work from home, to allow for a better work-life balance, the ability to fit work around childcare demands, or just to cut out the commute. Some staff are even willing to accept a lower salary if they can work from home.
Working remotely can also save a lot of time. The average person spends a lot of their time commuting to and from the office every day, with the longest commutes taking place in metropolitan areas with a lot of traffic congestion. By changing to remote work, employees can save a considerable number of hours a week. Cutting out travel to meetings also gives you time to have far more virtual meetings in the time it would usually take you to travel to one meeting.
Since transitioning to working from home during the pandemic, many people have found that they prefer it and would prefer not to return to an office. Some companies are likely to allow their staff more flexibility, giving them the option to work from home at least part of the time.
With more people working from home than ever before, many are facing the challenge of creating a better place to work from, whether they’re turning the spare bedroom into an office or trying to find a quiet corner to work from.
Adjusting to working from home is not easy for everyone, and having a great place to do your work from can make a big difference to your concentration, productivity, and success.
How To Adapt To Working From Home
There have been hundreds of guides written about how to work from home since the pandemic started, from how to form productive habits to how to care for your mental health with less of a divide between work and home. However, you can’t start nailing your good working habits if you don’t have a proper place to work. Before you worry about whether you should take a walk at lunchtime, or only get dressed from the waist up for Zoom meetings, you need to make any required adaptions to your home to give you a suitable workspace.
Do you need a home office space?
If it’s possible in your home, it can be helpful to have a dedicated room for your office. Your own office has several practical benefits, such as reduced noise and distractions and more privacy from the rest of the house, but it can also help to create more separation between your home and work life. By being able to close the door to your office, you can draw a line between home time and work time, which can be hard to do if your office is also your sofa.
All the guides on being productive and mentally healthy while working from express the need for a space to work from. If you’re going to avoid distractions, then a dedicated office space can really help.
Setting up an ergonomic workspace is also much easier if you have a dedicated area for working in. An ergonomic work area will have room for a desk, a chair that supports your back and maintains good posture, and is properly lit to avoid eye strain and headaches.
Do you need flexible spaces in your home?
Not everybody has a spare room that can be turned into a permanent home office, especially if you will be returning to the office in the long-term. In this case, a more flexible space can be useful. Small spaces could use fold-down desks, or you could invest in laptop stands to be used with chairs. Can you take over the spare bedroom or the dining room temporarily?
You could create a workspace anywhere in your home where you can sit with a laptop, whether it’s on the sofa, at the dining table, or at your kitchen counter. However, these more temporary set-ups are not ideal long-term.
Many people will be working from home for the first time during this pandemic and will be struggling to differentiate between home and work. When you’re just sitting at the kitchen table with a laptop, it can be hard to stay productive, and not become distracted by chores or children. It can also be hard to stop working at the end of the day, and not be tempted to just keep going or get sucked back into work after deciding to just quickly check your emails late in the evening.
This lack of a proper divide between home time and work time is not ideal for your mental health. If you can’t find a permanent workspace or make a flexible space work for you and your family, then you may need to consider renovations to give you a proper workspace.
Suppose your company is one of the 67% planning to continue remote working permanently. In that case, you will need a proper workspace to do your job in, and allow you to work effectively without impacting on family life.
There are several opinions for renovations that can add a dedicated workspace, such as an office, or a more flexible space that could provide workspace and family space.
Is A Summer House The Solution?
When you think about renovating a home to add an office, you would usually think of building an extra room or converting a loft or basement into an office. Not every family has the space to do this, or perhaps you don’t have the budget or can’t get planning permission. Despite these obstacles, you can still create a dedicated office space by building an insulated garden room or summer house.
A garden room will not usually require any special permission to build, but this might differ depending on the size of the structure, or your intended use, so check the rules in your area before you make any plans.
In order to use a summer house as an office, you will also need to consider the practicalities. Any garden room will need to be adequately sealed and insulated in order to keep your items safe. The last thing you want is to move your office out into the summer house, only to find that the roof has leaked and let water fry your computer. This could be very dangerous or cause a lot of damage that will be expensive to put right.
You could buy a ready-made summer house, a pre-fab kit that you put together yourself, or have a bespoke room designed. Whichever you choose, make sure the materials are of good quality and the building work has been done correctly. You need to be sure that the structure is weatherproof and waterproof.
What kind of weather will your summer house need to withstand? Does it get very cold or very hot where you live? If you’re working in the summer house all year round, you need to have a plan to deal with the temperature during the different seasons. Is there proper ventilation to stop you from getting too hot during the summer? Is the summer house adequately insulated to prevent you from getting cold during the winter? Is there an option to add additional heating or air conditioning if you need it?
You will, of course, need to find a way to run electricity to your garden room, so you can power the lights, and run your computer, as well as any other electronics that you need. Don’t try and do this yourself. Electrics should only be dealt with by a professional who knows what they’re doing. Think about the other essentials you will need. Does your home WiFi reach far enough into the garden, or will you need a booster or another router? Will you need a phone point for a desk phone? Does your job require you to have access to water?
Don’t forget about lighting. The right office will need to have a mix of ambient and directional light. Ambient light is for when it’s not dark outside, but gives you enough light to work by. You can create ambient lighting with a mixture of natural lighting, but putting enough windows into your summer house and overhead lighting. Directional lighting gives you more light for when it’s dark. Adjustable desk lamps are ideal for this. Think too about the lighting outside for when you’re walking back to the house at the end of your workday if you’ll be doing this in the dark.
A summer house can also be a very flexible space and used for all kinds of purposes beyond your office. You could make the room multipurpose, or buy a big enough summer house to allow you to split it for multiple uses. Use half for your office and half for the storage of garden furniture and toys. If you don’t need a shed-type space, you could use the other half as a more traditional summer house, with sofas and room to relax for the whole family. You could get creative and turn part of the summer house into a playhouse for your children.
If the summer house needs to be flexible, there are lots of options too. Create a workspace that the whole family can use. Put in more than one desk, so more than one person can work in the office at a time, whether your partner also needs working from home space, or the children need a dedicated space for completing homework. Combine the office with a craft room, and add in a desk for a sewing machine, as well as storage space for fabrics.
If the summer house is adequately insulated and heated, you could put in a sofa-bed, so it can be used as a guest bedroom if you have a lot of visitors coming to stay and won’t have enough beds inside the main house.
Put in some gym equipment if you like to keep fit. Gym equipment is often unsightly, so you don’t always want it in the house. Hide it away in the summer house, but still have easy access to it. You could even use your breaks from work to get in a quick session on the exercise bike or treadmill. Layout some yoga mats if you prefer a gentle workout.
If you love to entertain, your summer house could do double duty as a bar. During the day, you have an office, and in the evening, you can shut down your computer, open up the doors, and use the room as a bar. You could build a full bar, or hideaway a bar cabinet that can be opened up when you need it. You could go all out with bar signage, a pinball machine, and even a dartboard.
A summer house can be a very flexible space while offering you a separate area away from the home to work. However, if your garden isn’t big enough, the climate won’t let you work outside, or you’d prefer to stay in the house, they aren’t the best option. If this is the case for you, then you may need to consider a larger renovation project to give you the office space that you need. Speak to Scenario Architecture about a custom Summer House Office that considers everything you need now and for the future.
You could build a whole new room onto the house, but if you need the extra space but don’t have room on your property to expand outwards, you could look into expanding upwards or downwards.
Dig Down Or Build Up?
If you don’t have enough room to expand outwards to build an office onto your home, you could build downwards by converting your basement or build upwards by converting your loft.
Basements can be a very versatile space, especially as they are usually large enough to converted for several uses. Wall off a room for an office space, and you still have space left to use for storage, or as a home gym, playroom, home bar, utility room, or anything else that your home is currently lacking.
Converting an existing cellar or basement into a living space is unlikely to require planning permission in most cases. You will need planning permission if the basement is going to be a separate unit, the usage will be significantly changed, or you will be adding a light well that will alter the external appearance of your property.
If you will be excavating to create a new basement which will involve major works, a new separate unit, or will change the external appearance of the house, then you will probably need to get planning permission.
If you’re going to convert all or part of your basement into a home office, you will need to think about soundproofing. The purpose of having a home office is to have somewhere peaceful to work. If the noise of your children playing echoes down the stairs, then you might as well working in the living room. Some soundproofing can be very useful to give you somewhere quiet and free of distractions to work.
Much like the summer house, you will need to think about insulation. Basements can often be damp places, so you will need to make sure you have dealt with any damp issues. Are they already power points in your basement in useful places or will you need to add more? Would it be useful to add a small bathroom to save you going back upstairs all the time and getting distracted? Does your basement already have the plumbing connections to allow you to do this?
Will you be able to properly light a basement office? The disadvantage of a basement office is not having any windows unless you have a walkout basement. Not having any natural light won’t suit everyone, so consider carefully whether this is something that will bother you before investing the time and money into a basement conversion.
Working in inadequate lighting isn’t good for your eyes, so despite the lack of natural light, you will need to make sure a basement office has ample lighting. Your architect will be able to you plan out where lighting can go, so you have enough to work by safely.
If you’re turning a basement into a workspace, you may always want to invest in a dehumidifier. When you think of a basement, you will usually think of a space that has the humid, misty air of a closed room.
Most people will spend most of the day in their office. The hours in an enclosed space will mean that if you want to turn a basement into an office, you will have to think out about you will get rid of the humidity. You can do this by investing in a dehumidifier.
Speak to Scenario Architecture about a Basement Conversion Office that considers everything you need now and for the future.
Loft Conversion Office
If your home doesn’t have a basement, or you can’t stand the thought of working in a room with no windows, then you could expand upwards and convert your loft into an office instead.
Depending on the amount of space that you have to work with, you could do the same thing as the basement conversion and create more than one new room. Use the second room as another bathroom, a new bedroom, a family room, or whatever else takes your fancy.
If you don’t have a large enough loft to create more than one room, you can still create a room that does double duty. Use part of the room as a workspace, and the rest can be used as a hobby room, family room, spare bedroom, home gym or just about anything else.
Loft conversions usually don’t require planning permission, which makes them a good option. There are some scenarios where you will need planning permission, such as if you’re extending out from the original roofline. Check before you start work to make sure that you have all the paperwork in place that you need.
There are also a few building restrictions that you will need to adhere to. You will need to provide a proper amount of headroom around the staircase, for example. You must also adhere to sound and heat regulations. Depending on the kind of roof that you have, there are different options for insulation that you could consider. You should properly insulate a loft conversion, in order to conserve heat during the winter months. Insulation in a loft conversion will pay itself after a few years by reducing your heating bill.
Is your loft suitable for a loft conversion? Start by looking at your loft to see if it is large enough to turn into an office that is big enough for you to work in every day. You don’t necessarily need a large office, but you need enough space for your desk and enough storage space. Is there enough floor space for everything you need, as well as enough space for you not to feel cramped if you’re working in the room every day.
Don’t forget to have the structural safety of your loft checked before you start any work. Most lofts were built with storage in mind but won’t have been built to cope with the extra weight of the additional furnishings needed for an office.
One of the first things you will have to consider is how you will access a room in the loft. Do you have enough space on the floor below to add a staircase? You could go for a set of stairs that fold up like a loft ladder, but this might soon become a nuisance if you’re using the space all the time.
Fitting a new staircase is the most practical option for loft conversion access, but this can be tough to execute. You will most likely need to remove some ceiling joists. There are other regulations for a staircase that you will need to abide by, such as having a handrail on each side, and a maximum number of sixteen steps.
How much headspace is there in your loft? Most lofts are built with a pitched roof, which means that head room will be at a minimum in parts of the room. You want to be able to stand up straight comfortably in the majority of the room. Having to crouch will get annoying quickly, and won’t help you to create an office that you actually want to use.
When you convert a loft, you will often be left with awkward nooks and crannies around the roofline and the structural support of the roof. Rather than leave these as wasted space, make the most of them with some custom solutions. Build in cupboards or shelving to add more storage space for paperwork and other clutter. You could also have a custom desk made that is cut to fit around any awkward shapes, creating something that is useful and creative.
What options for a power supply are there in your basement? There’s usually nothing beyond a light in a loft, so you may need to add more lighting, as well as power points for you to plug in your computer, printer, phone, and other electronics that you need. You might need to add a phone line extension or install a phone jack to connect to your current landline. Check too that your WiFi will reach, or add a second router.
Like converting a basement, a loft conversion can offer some challenges with lighting. Lofts don’t have windows already in them usually, but unlike a basement conversion, there are some options to add windows. Skylights that sit flush with the roofline are popular options. You could build in dormer windows if you want to add more space or areas with a higher roof.
Speak to Scenario Architecture about a Loft Conversion Office that considers everything you need now and for the future.
Basement Or Loft Conversion
There are pros and cons to both options, and which you choose is ultimately up to you.
If you have an existing basement, then a conversion can be relatively cheap and straightforward to do. You can create a large space that is ideal for accommodating the changing needs of your family as time passes, especially if your basement extends under your garden too.
A basement can have multiple uses as well as your office such as a den, media room, home gym, or home cinema.
If your basement has access from the outside, you have a separate entrance to really divide your work area from the rest of your home. With new technology, you can create a basement conversion that feels light and airy.
If you need to excavate a new basement rather than convert an existing cellar, this will be much more expensive and more difficult to do. A basement excavation will take much longer than a basement conversion too. You may also need planning permission, depending on your local authority.
A loft conversion can be built to offer great views, as well as a feeling of space and light. This makes for a very pleasant room to work in that you will actually enjoy spending time in.
Converting your loft can be relatively straightforward and cheap to do, as long as you keep your plans simple. You can keep costs down by building your new staircase over your existing one, adding any new plumbing over existing plumbing, or using roof lights rather than building dormer windows.
A loft conversion is a great place to use as a multi-use space. One of the best uses is to create a spare bedroom, with a desk for you to work at. A master ensuite bedroom with a home office, for example, would be an ideal use of a loft conversion.
There are some disadvantages to loft conversions too. There may be restrictions to the height that you able to build. If your loft has restricted head height, then you will need to take this into account. The space you have will be limited to the size of your loft space.
For help creating a workspace for remote working in your basement or loft, call Scenario Architecture. Our architects are ready to advise you on your different options and to help you create the perfect home office or flexible workspace. Contact us today on 020 7686 3445 or firstname.lastname@example.org to book a call to discuss your project.