Does working from home mean the end of open-plan living?

Will open-plan living still work as more of us embrace working from home?

We’ve lived in open-plan spaces for decades now. But with working from home part of the “new normal” for many of us, will we start to rethink our homes’ designs?

What is open-plan living and why has it been so popular?

Open-plan living describes residential architecture in which walls and boundaries — usually between the kitchen, living and dining spaces — have been removed to create a sense of openness and communal living. Interior walls first started disappearing from home design in the 1970s and the trend has dominated ever since.

“A more interactive approach to living started to emerge, reducing the desire for individual spaces within the home and celebrating a more shared approach to day-to-day life,” explains Jade Bury, director of Harper Lane Design. “The Australian lifestyle in particular lends itself well to open-plan living — the interior/exterior flow being so seamless, because we enjoy our outdoor entertaining, and the relaxed vibe of modern family living just blends beautifully.”

What are the drawbacks of open-plan spaces?

Noise and privacy tend to be the main concerns. “Large families in particular tend to prefer some spaces with a sense of division to them, allowing everyone a bit of breathing room,” says Jade. “The potential for noise and clutter in an open-plan space is fairly high, so those with multiple children appreciate set zones to keep the peace!”

How does it impact working from home?

If you live alone or if you’re the only person in your household who is working from home, there’s not a lot to worry about. However, that isn’t the case for many families around the country.

“The lack of sound buffering and privacy has been challenging for a lot of households with more than one person working from home,” says Jade. “Someone always ends up working from the dining table, right in the middle of a high traffic area of the home — not the most productive for Zoom calls.” Put simply, it’s not a floor plan that was designed to cater for this new post-COVID world.

Will the ‘new-normal’ really impact its popularity?

Last year we spent more time than ever inside our home and, as a result, we’re seeing a boom in renovations and home improvement projects — so the shift has already begun. “I have noticed a definite change in my clients’ appreciation for separation of space,” says Jade. “Ultimately our casual family/dining/kitchen set-up may stay unchanged, but an emphasis will be put on home designs with quiet study zones, and individual space for one or two proper home offices.”

Can’t we have both?

Not everyone has the luxury of space, so if you’re lucky enough to have a spare room that can be transformed into an office, or the time and budget to extend, there’s no reason why you can’t have an open-plan living space and comfortably work from home.

“It's ultimately a matter of planning your use of square meterage well, and prioritising the need for these functional spaces early in your design plan, so they are given the attention they need to be well resolved and practical,” says Jade. “We don't need to lose our love of seamless living, but we do need to plan for a home that allows its occupants to live their lives without restriction.”

Insuring your open-plan home

Renovations can increase the overall value of your house, while investing in new home office equipment may affect the value of your contents, meaning that — if the unexpected occurs — the sum insured listed on your insurance policy may be inadequate for repairing or replacing everything. So, if you decide to make changes to your home, ensure the sum insured on your insurance policy is up to date. If you’re a GIO customer, you can easily do this online.

If you’re still considering Home and Contents Insurance, we have a range of options to choose from.

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This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.