It’s not news to say that the way we use our homes has dramatically changed over the last six months as we learn to work from home, school from home and get used to all being within the same four walls all the time. And John Lewis & Partners published a report yesterday which reveals how we have adapted our homes over the last six months to help us live more flexibly, as we have tried to find space to work, exercise, play, cook and just be on our own. While they don’t claim to be the first it’s certainly one of the earliest, and most extensive, reports I have seen on how our homes have changed this year and it makes fascinating reading.
“The Flexible Living Report: Redefining The UK’s Homes For a New Chapter in Twenty-First Century Living” found that we have ditched open plan living which is the first major change in how we use our homes since the 1970s when open plan living first took off.
Of course these changes were sparked by the necessity of families all having to be together 24/7 (and at the time of writing it doesn’t look like that is going to change back any time soon) but the survey of 2,000 people found that this modular and flexible approach to living is here to stay. The report found that one in five of us have reconfigured an open plan space to accommodate multiple activities throughout the day – such as working, exercising and home-schooling.
Well over half (57 per cent) of us expect to work from home in the future and indeed I have spoken to several people recently who have said they aren’t expecting to return to their offices until the New Year and in some cases until the Spring of 2021.
More than one third of those who took up a new hobby during lockdown have made space for it in their home, with a further fifth planning to make a permanent space to carry it on on a permanent basis. Three quarters of those surveyed who said they were saving for their home during lockdown are now planning to spend up to £5,000 to make improvements.
Now, of course John Lewis is a shop so they have shared some of their insights into what people have been buying during this period and the top item – I think this may surprise you – is dressing tables; searches for which are up by 400 per cent. I suspect this is about people having to work in their bedrooms and perhaps wanting a table that can double up as a work space with the drawers used for a mix of make-up and stationery.
Sales of carpet cleaners are up by 433 per cent as a result of the extra mess at homes. Plants, by 419 per cent (which is good as we know how they can detoxify the air) and artwork by 35 per cent. Is this about improving the background for all those Zoom meetings?
But, apparently, we have also fallen back in love with letter writing, with a rise in sales of calligraphy pens up 406 per cent) as well as notebooks and journals (up 207 per cent).
Anyone who has tried to buy an exercise bike recently will know that they are out of stock for long periods of time and is backed up by the report which found that the closure of gyms has led to an increase in sales of fitness machines (+122 per cent), yoga accessories (+45 per cent) and foam rollers (+ 43 per cent). And some 17 per cent of us have reconfigured a space for a home gym or yoga area.
Parents of young children (and truculent teens come to that) will be aware of the desperate need to find a corner they can call their own. Forget a whole room Virginia, these days 20 per cent of us are happy with a cushion on a window sill, or a chair in the hall.
But when we have to work where have we been doing it? Well, the report found that two thirds of us are lucky enough to have a home office or a dining room (John Lewis customers remember) while 22 per cent of us are in the kitchen and 32 per cent on the sofa (that’s me!). Only ten per cent of us have sheds – I wonder if that will change over the next six months while a poor nine per cent of us have been relegated to working in the bathroom.
Johnathan Marsh, of the home department at John Lewis, said: ‘For many years now, modern life has been so busy it felt as if people spent more time away from the home than within. Before the pandemic, open plan living provided welcome moments of togetherness for families and friends in otherwise hectic schedules.
“Lockdown has changed everything. There was immediate pressure to adapt open plan designs to maximise space for work, exercise, home-schooling, play and dining. Modifying spaces in this way has brought about a change in mindset, with customers reflecting on the full potential of their homes to serve multiple functions.”
And as the situation looks unlikely to change over the winter, there are reports of spikes in outdoor heaters and firepits and the virus doesn’t seem to be so easily transmitted outside.
So I have to ask – comment below if you’ve been working in the bathroom and do share any ways you have modified your homes to be more WFH friendly.