Landmark research has shed light on the key drivers behind the rise in homeworking across the UK, highlighting significant implications for planners, developers and local authorities working in the built environment.
Commissioned by master developer & regeneration specialist Summix and undertaken by economics firm Smart Growth Analytics, the research explores changing habits in relation to homeworking pre- and post-Covid, and how the built environment industry should respond.
It finds almost a third (31%) of the UK’s 32m workers are now working predominantly from home (at least three days a week). It also reveals a significant increase in ‘tribrid’ working patterns, where professionals divide their time across traditional offices, home and local co-working centres.
Meanwhile, one in six of the UK’s total workforce is now a professional person working predominantly from home, effectively creating ‘hidden business parks’ in many residential areas across the country.
When planning new residential and infrastructure developments, the authors suggest planners, developers and local authorities should factor in homeworking rates of 30% to 35% up to 2030 and around 35% to 40% from 2030 onwards – compared with the pre-pandemic planning allowance of 14%. In new developments across areas with very high pre-pandemic homeworking rates, such as Oxfordshire, rates of 35-40% should be considered immediately.
Rather than a fleeting pandemic trend, the report concludes these new working habits will have longstanding implications for local development and planning in the UK, with calls for a rethink of how the country plans for and designs new development to accommodate the future workplace, building the case for 15-minute neighbourhoods.
Greg Mitchell, Executive Planning Director for Summix, said: “The immediate move to remote, home and flexible work during the pandemic has become compounded with a push for environmental responsibility, quality of life and cost-of-living pressures such as increased commuting costs.
“Despite these challenges, the built environment sector is well-placed to unlock the benefits from the changes in working patterns through adopting a more thoughtful approach to placemaking, whether it’s planning for new settlements or urban regeneration.
“Answering how, where and when we work is fundamental to accommodate for this; making sure we can plan for new development in the most effective way possible. Building the right homes in the right places is critical, but it should also provide the necessary connectivity and amenities to meet people’s needs.
“We hope the industry, policymakers and the wider public find the report useful in rethinking how we shape and design new development, making sure we can realise the huge environmental, social and economic opportunities on offer for communities.”
Jim Plunkett-Cole, Director at Smart Growth Anaytics, said: “The work shows how, almost overnight, the pandemic was the catalyst that led to the greatest long-term shift in working patterns and the location of work that has ever been seen in the UK.
“Some of the key drivers behind the Future of Work in the UK had begun long before the pandemic. For example, the ongoing professionalisation of the workforce, where an increasing proportion of jobs are professional compared all other jobs, combined with the ongoing growth of our Creative & Knowledge-Based Industries. Both these important trends were well in occurrence in the 20 or so years prior to COVID-19.
“We can expect these trends to continue into the short, medium and longer terms, driven by hugely powerful forces which together have led to a cultural shift in our approach to work and the location of work.”
The findings presents a number of key considerations for the development industry and creates opportunities to generate a positive economic, environmental and social impact for communities by:
- Redeveloping redundant office space to create more spaces for coworking, housing and amenities.
- Adopting a more human-centred approach to designing new homes to better accommodate the Future of Work, along with provision of formal and informal coworking opportunities and increased need for local every day services.
- Regenerating existing town centres and high streets though increased footfall and more regular use of local amenities.
- Creating 15-minute neighbourhoods, allowing people to get to where they need to go on foot or cycle, while having key amenities and social infrastructure on their doorstep.
- Reducing traffic levels and pollution, placing a greater emphasis on active travel and healthy living.