Is Your Own Workspace the Key to a Happy Work From Home Life?

Thanks to Covid, millions of us began working from home in March 2020 – but has this affected an otherwise happy home life?

Almost overnight homes had to adapt to become workspaces, and partners and housemates became co-workers. The hourly commute was swapped for a few seconds’ walk to the home desk; train fare and fuel costs were slashed. There were no more early-morning alarm calls or evenings spent ironing uniforms and office shirts. 

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Coronavirus, as per the PM’s orders, opened the door to home working for many employees who previously hadn’t had been given the option to do it (according to the Office of National Statistics only 27% of adults worked from home).

Over the last two years the nation has largely embraced and settled into a better work-life balance — and it looks set to be something that’s here to stay. 

It means the time we spend with those we live with has multiplied, putting pressure on relationships as the routine of going to work no longer provides an ‘escape’.

How does space affect relationships?

A research team led by interior designer Carly Thornock, as reported by the BBC, found that the more physical space a person had in their home did correlate with families being happier. 

Is a personal workspace key for a happy work from home life

What surprised the researchers most was discovering that it was how people perceived that space — as in how much space each one of them had and whether it felt too crowded or distant — which had a greater impact on their relationships.  

The Mental Health Foundation states that drawing a line between work and home is key to a healthy work-life balance and looking after your mental health. This line is easier to achieve when you exit an office each day and travel home, physically leaving work behind you. But what if your desk is in your bedroom or at your kitchen table?

The NHS advises having a dedicated workspace:

  • Setting up an office in your spare room, so you can close the door on your desk everyday
  • Removing laptop and work stuff from your living space when you’ve finished working
  • Putting your laptop in the cupboard when you’re done for the day 

However you make your space work as your home and workplace, maintaining the distinction between the two is important as this will help you switch off from the stresses of work and relax – and if you’re more relaxed, it will benefit your relationship with those around you too.

Can sharing your workspace work?

One 37-year-old male, who asked not to be named, says that living in a house large enough for him and his partner to have their own desks in different rooms saved their relationship. He described how he and his partner had previously worked from home once or twice a week before the pandemic and on the rare occasion when their schedules clashed, it didn’t go well. This was something they wanted to avoid during the pandemic.

You learn a lot about your partner when you both work from home; people can be very different when in ‘work mode’.

Installing a desk in the spare bedroom allowed them to work separately in the same space, so work based arguments were avoided.

It was a lack of individual space that triggered Natalie Clarke’s decision to move out of the three-bedroom semi-detached in London that she shared with two female friends after lockdown one. 

Different working hours, a bedroom too small to fit a desk in and a communal dining table in the sitting room were the main problems. As some of Natalie’s shifts didn’t finish until 11pm, she would be trying to work while her housemates were trying to eat dinner or watch TV.

While they made it work as best they could, including sharing schedules and agreeing quiet times, this wasn’t a long-term solution. 

In the summer of 2020, Natalie relocated to a new rental, a one-bed flat in Berkshire.

It changed my life. I still live there now, with the same desk in the corner of my sitting room which I shut after work so that I can switch off […] If I had a 9-5 job, like my housemates did, perhaps it would have been easier to manage.

So while you may be compatible as housemates or partners, being compatible co-workers is something completely different and having the right space really helps with this.

As people continue to work from home, how can you adapt your space?

In June 2020, the ONS reported that nearly half of all workers worked from home (49%).

But instead of returning to the office as restrictions lifted, workers chose to stay put. Data collected between 19th and 30th January 2022 by the OPN showed that over a third of working adults (36%) still worked from home at least once a week.

Work from home office space

What’s more, the same research also found that most people (84%) who took up home working because of the pandemic intended to adopt a hybrid approach to working — that is, splitting time between working from home and commuting into the office. So this is something to consider when you are looking for your next home, especially if you are investing in your first home:

  • How often will you and/or your partner work from home? If you both work jobs where you cannot work from home – retail or NHS, for example – this might not be something you need to consider. However, if you work a job that allows you to work from home, you’ll need to see whether a property has a suitable workspace
  • How much space do you need? It’s easy to think that if there’s room for a desk, that’s all you need, but it’s worth considering your working style – especially if you are living with someone else. Are you both able to work in the same room or will you need individual spaces?
  • Where are you based? Location is famously important! Even if you work from home a lot, where you decide to buy is still important – you don’t want to have a nightmare commute when you do go in!

You might be worried that you can’t afford the right size of property or in the right location, so give our mortgage advisors a call to get the right advice and start planning! 

As a landlord, this is something to consider when marketing your property:

  • Highlight working space. If there is a spare room in your property or space in the living areas to set up an office space, make sure you are calling that out in your ad, as this is something that tenants are regularly looking for. You could even set it up for the photos, to really catch the eye!
  • Consider your furnishings. If you rent your property furnished, it’s worth investing in a good desk and chair to temp potential tenants who will be working from home
  • Don’t forget additional benefits. If your property has a garden or a balcony, these are great selling points, but particularly now that people are spending more time at home. So be sure to make the most of them!

It means working from home is here to stay and while that is great news for achieving a work-life balance that suits you, it does require every bit of space in your home to be used wisely — especially if you live with others.

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