One of the big experiments forced onto companies across Australia off the back of COVID-19 was employees working from home.
For many, this was a success. It proved modern communications and collaboration tools could allow workers to perform their tasks from home effectively.
Big tech names like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter have embraced this shift. In many cases, they’re now integrating it as the norm. A similar announcement from global engineering firm Worley was a reliable indication that this is not just a tech industry trend.
As the country emerges from the COVID-19 crisis and considers working from home a viable option, the business world will be re-shaped. Remote workers are part of this.
What impact could this have on renters and rental housing demand?
Employees working from a home office situation have very different needs to standard renters and could, therefore, be on the hunt for a ‘workplace home’.
The workplace home concept looks at the dual purposing of a property. It works by integrating a connected home workspace into a standard rental property.
It’s here where the need for a dedicated working space becomes paramount. Many renters were forced to work from their dining room table, breakfast bar or makeshift desk in the corner of their living area. In most cases, this was due to how quickly working from home was enforced, giving little time and resources to properly set up for the task. But this isn’t suitable for a long-term home office environment.
CEOs and human resource managers will set criteria for the health and safety of their remote staff. Companies need to be sure employees have the correct ergonomics, sufficient working space, and proper lighting, for example. This step will become paramount to ensure workers remain both healthy and efficient.
Of course, this could potentially force remote workers to seek out more suitable rental accommodation. There could be increased demand for properties with large open plan areas. These would allow tenants to include a comfortable workspace. Similarly, at the cost of smaller, less suitable properties, interest may surge in upgrading to a two or three-bedroom house or apartment to provide dedicated office space.
Parking spaces could become less important too. The need to have an extra car (or any vehicle) diminishes when one or more occupants work from home permanently.
Fast NBN connection or 5G internet will be critical. How many people suffered through troublesome Zoom meetings due to poor internet connections?
Employers may contribute to working from home costs given the substantial savings they get from reducing overheads associated with providing traditional office space. Workers will also experience savings by not having to travel to work. Saving money on running a vehicle could lead to renters being able to afford a higher rent and let them upgrade to a more suitable property.
Demand for properties further away from the CDB and closer to lifestyle suburbs close to the beach, restaurant strips, parks and rivers may also increase as the need to be close to the office reduces.
Time will tell what percentage of Australia’s workforce continues to work from home as we move into a post COVID lockdown world. However, any significant trend will affect the property landscape into the future.
House designs will more fluidly integrate home working stations, but until this feature becomes standard, finding the right rental property for the purpose will be a challenge for the remote workforce.
As a founding employee, David Berridge has been responsible for helping real estate and property management agencies reach the large renter and landlord rent.com.au audience. Outside of work, he enjoys a round of golf, the beach, and travelling the world.