Working in shared homes during lockdown hitting mental and physical health, survey finds

Young people in houseshares are having to live and work in cramped conditions, new figures show, with researchers warning that space constraints could pose “real issues” if working from home becomes a lasting norm.

The survey, carried out by researchers at the London School of Economics (LSE), found that two in five people (37 per cent) living in shared accommodation were both living and working in their bedroom during lockdown.

Many of the respondents, mostly aged between 20 and 39, said the cramped conditions were affecting both their mental and physical health.

The researchers surveyed Londoners who share their homes with others, either renting with flatmates or partners or living with parents.

Nearly half the respondents (46 per cent) said they did not have a suitable place to work, with many impacted by noise (44 per cent) and a lack of privacy (43 per cent) while trying to live and work in a shared space.

Around half said they did not have a kitchen large enough for more than one person to be in at one time, or for eating in. Meanwhile, living spaces had been adapted into temporary work areas, leaving no place to relax and removing separation between work and downtime.

“I am basically in lockdown in a bedroom, eating and working here,” one respondent said.

Kath Scanlon, Distinguished Policy Fellow at LSE, said: “People living in shared homes often compromise on space because they expect to spend most of their time out and about. But space constraints pose real issues when several adults are working from home, and our research highlighted practical problems like noise, lack of work surfaces and privacy.

“If home working is to become standard practice, then we need to adapt our homes and relationships accordingly.”

Seventy per cent of respondents were in employment and working full time when the survey was carried out, but more than one third had never worked from home before lockdown.

More than a quarter (26 per cent) said their wifi was inadequate, while around one in five – 21 per cent – reported challenges in presenting themselves professionally to their employer or clients.

The online survey, sponsored by Pocket Living, was carried out during May 13 and June 12 2020, and received 698 valid responses. 

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