Working from home: Planning for the new normal?


Working from home

Planning for the new normal?

07 Dec 2021
This research report – commissioned by Barratt and undertaken by Lichfields working with Savanta - uses survey work to explore how people have responded to the experience of working at home during the pandemic. It looks at what impact it has had on how they use their accommodation, and how it might shape their future property choices.  The research aims to draw useful implications and conclusions for planning practitioners across the sector.
The Coronavirus pandemic has shown that some level of working from home is now a necessary option for a range of jobs and industries. This was not a new phenomenon. Office-based businesses were already showing signs of greater flexibility, but the pandemic accelerated this trend significantly.
In turn, many workers have had to use their homes as workspaces to an extent they will not have expected at the time they made choices about the accommodation they wanted to occupy.
Alongside a re-evaluation of the importance of gardens and the proximity to open space, understanding how a home can provide office space has become an important consideration for many. For those that are home-working even as part of a hybrid mix with office life, what does this mean - working from the kitchen table? A spare bedroom? A home office/study?
Just as home buyers are already considering what new demands they have of their accommodation, house builders - looking to service this changing demand – are looking to understand those requirements and, in some cases, need to change the types of home they build to respond to a new facet of market demand.
However, many Local Planning Authorities adopt prescriptive housing mix policies on individual developments, seeking to impose a mix of dwelling sizes (measured by number of bedrooms) on sites, based on demographic trends shown in their Strategic Housing Market Assessments (SHMAs). Frequently, these mixes prescribe that developments are skewed to provision of two or three-bedroom properties because of an assumption that a projected increase in smaller households in an area means that new dwellings should also be smaller. The SHMAs underpinning these policies will draw conclusions about how people occupy homes that is based on data (often drawn from the Census 2011) that pre-dates the pandemic.
The report identifies that the shift in working culture demands an immediate response from the planning sector to enable for homes that are ‘work from home’ ready, with an extra bedroom that can be used as a workplace. This means changes to local planning policies and flexibility in interpretation of current mix standards when determining current planning applications.