Telework has come of age in SA, and with many thousands of employees now regularly and routinely working remotely, the home office is rapidly moving up the “must have” list for prospective home buyers of all ages, says Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group.
“One tends to think of Millennials as being the work-at-home generation – or actually the work-on-the-move generation – but actually the nature of work has changed for everyone, and these days we find that seniors, middle-aged executives and first-time buyers are all looking for homes with a clearly defined office space where they can work several days a week instead of going to their commercial offices”.
“In many cases, in fact, they would rather have a study set up for work with the necessary phone and computer connections that than a separate dining room or a spare bedroom. And then there is an increasing number of buyers who run home-based businesses, for whom an outbuilding is now more likely to become their ‘headquarters’ than to be converted into a flat.”
Many studies have now been done, he notes, that have established that employees who are able to work at home at least some of the time are generally happier and more productive than their office-bound counterparts; that telework also benefits the environment by reducing commuting; and that companies can significantly reduce their overheads by empowering and equipping employees to work remotely.
“There are quite a number of companies that in fact are now based in co-working office spaces, where they occupy only a few permanent offices and hire meeting rooms and other facilities only once or twice a month when all their employees get together. For the rest of the time those employees work from wherever they are, whether that is home, their car, or a coffee shop with free wi-fi”.
“And if one adds the security concerns of many South Africans to the increased use of technology and more flexible work hours, it becomes clear why so many buyers in this country are now looking for homes that can accommodate both their living and working requirements.”
In the case of pre-owned properties, Kotzé says, those with an existing office, either attached or in the same grounds, are most in demand, especially if the seller has already had the office wired for voice and data communications.
“Then come those homes with “convertible” space, such as a spare bedroom or garage that can easily be transformed into a home office, and home sellers will generally find that it is well worth their while to do so. Bottom of the list are those that would require additions or alterations to create a home office, since those working from home or intending to do so can seldom afford the downtime that would be involved.”
When it comes to new homes, he says, many developers are already tapping into the trend and designing in a versatile room or area that can clearly be identified as a home office.
“In fact, some say the lack of such a facility is now quite likely to be a deal-breaker, especially in dual-income families where at least one adult works from home most of time or has a home-based enterprise.”