Will my tenants work from home forever?

While the pandemic isn’t over, it certainly looks like normal life is starting to resume. So should we expect to be back to the office as normal?

Back in March 2020, the first work from home order went out and many people were taken with the novelty of the short commute from bed to desk and the money saved on transport, takeaway coffees, cafe lunches and after work drinks.

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But as the pandemic ground on, the same people who had initially embraced the work-from-home life were champing at the bit to get back into the office. So has the way we work changed or will we be going back to the pre-pandemic norm?

What was the mental and physical cost of working from home?

According to the Office for National Statistics in 2019, before the pandemic, only 27% of adults worked from home, while the majority of us walked, tubed or bussed our way into work every day, come rain, snow or tube strike. 

These days, there has been something of a workplace revolution, with job ads referring to ‘home working’ and similar terms increasing – you were three times more likely to find a ‘home working’ advert in May 2021 than in February 2020.

The Royal Society for Public Health looked into the mental health impacts of working from home in early 2021. They found that 45% of people found working from home was better for their mental health and well being

But over time, the novelty wore off and the isolation, the restrictions on social interaction and exercise took their toll physically and mentally. This also had an impact on work, with 67% feeling less connected to their colleagues and 56% finding it hard to switch off at the end of the work day.

How has working-from-home changed where people live?

While the figures show that people do enjoy and benefit from working in person with their colleagues, we can safely assume that most companies will move to a more flexible, balanced approach than the previous 9-5

working laptop on a table

As a landlord, it’s important to plan for the future – as many have learnt during the pandemic! – and the last two years have certainly had an impact.

The biggest impact has been on where we choose to put down roots. During the various lockdowns, many people moved to cheaper homes outside of the city or returned to family homes. While some people have returned as restrictions have eased, many have embraced the flexible approach and now balance remote working a city-based job with a home outside of the city.

  • According to estate agents Hamptons, a record £55bn was spent on homes outside of London in 2021, with Londoners buying more than 112,000 outside of the capital 
  • There was a 62% increase on the number of homes bought by Londoners outside of the capital, compared to 2020 
  • 40% of first-time buyers left the capital to buy their first home
  • Trade Association UK Finance 2021 reported that 2021 was the strongest year for mortgage lending since 2007

Do landlords need to provide office space?

It’s always worth keeping on top of what people want and 85% of currently homeworking adults want a hybrid approach, so they can work flexibly between their home and the office. Bearing this in mind will make it easier to market and sell your property when the time comes to get a new tenant.

As it now looks like working from home is here to stay, you should be adjusting what you are offering tenants in order to meet that need:

  • Fully furnished. If you offer your property furnished, it’s worth updating some of the furniture so it suits a work from home tenant. Investing in a good desk and office chair is something you can highlight in your rental ads. If you have the space, try to find a desk with drawers so your tenants have additional storage for their work things. As with all your outgoings, it’s worth tracking this expense and saving your receipts ready for tax season.
  • Build a home office. If you have the space to create a home office in your property, go for it! If the living space is shaped so that a section can be used for a workspace and feel ‘separate’ from the living space, this is something to highlight. Set it up as a workspace for the pictures on your rental ad and mention it in the copy.
  • Upgrade the box room. If you have more than one bedroom in your property, it’s likely that one is quite a bit smaller. Consider marketing this as an office space, rather than an additional bedroom. A lot of young professionals, either single or couples, would appreciate a space they can close the door on at the end of the day, rather than working in their living and sleeping spaces.
  • Do your research. While working at home is a useful bonus, some people like to get out of the house to work. Do some research to see if there is a library or worker-friendly cafes in the area and mention this in your ad as a bonus USP.

Will more flexible working affect how landlords interact with tenants?

It shouldn’t affect it too much, as despite working from home, many tenants will still be working a traditional 9-5 Monday-Friday shift pattern. While the end does appear to be in sight, you should definitely cover yourself with Rent Guarantee Insurance (in case of any new disasters!) and bear the following in mind when interacting with your tenants:

  • Work around your tenant’s availability. Just because you know your tenant works from home on certain days, doesn’t mean they’re available! Never drop by just because you know they’re in, as they could be working to a tight deadline or on a Zoom meeting.
  • Schedule it in. Don’t let your good habits drop just because you know your tenants are at home. Arrange a convenient time for them if you need to come for an inspection or to organise maintenance.
  • Take precautions. While restrictions are easing, we are still in a pandemic, so if you or your tenants have any symptoms of Covid-19, check the government advice and follow it. It may mean rescheduling a visit, but better to be safe than sorry!
  • Respect boundaries. The disabled community has been hit hardest by the pandemic and many of them are still shielding. Disabilities are not always immediately visible, so if your tenant asks you to maintain social distancing and wear a mask, please do so as it could save their life. 
  • Take care. With your tenants spending more time at home, it’s especially important that they have a safe and warm home, so make sure that you have Home Emergency Insurance, so that any emergencies can be dealt with quickly!

The world is changing and you should keep your eyes on the news to make sure that you know what’s going on and can adjust accordingly!

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