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HCR Law Events

10 January 2021

Less commuting, fewer people. Will 2021’s return-to-work see a demand for more rural office locations?

The last decade has seen a rise in the number of farm and rural buildings being converted into office space. Certainly, a rural commute may seem more appealing than an urban one, depending of course, on personal preferences. And new research, published in our Future Workspaces report, highlights some reasons why the fallout of Covid-19 might keep this trend rolling.

According to Oliver Workman of THP Chartered Surveyors, these workspaces can be an attractive option. “For some businesses it is important to have something stylish and a town centre location that looks the part. But if you have staff who are in and out of the office regularly, easy access and allocated parking is a critical factor. In this case, a business park might be the answer. For businesses that want the personality but also the practicality, we’re seeing increasing interest in rural premises and converted farm buildings.”

With employers embracing flexible working policies and people working from decentralised locations, we are seeing a boom in the use of rural office space, which makes a positive contribution to the rural economy.

It is too early to tell whether this will continue to be embraced for directly employed people post-Covid but it is likely to continue for the self-employed, start-ups and small companies, whose need to have a high street presence or in-city location is disappearing.

Rural office space and in particular rural hubs, mean people can avoid the isolation of working from home, whilst avoiding the cost and time connected with a long commute to a city location, but our Head of Agricultural Property, Partner Mary Wathen, advises caution when jumping into a rural purchase or lease:

  1. Carry out detailed market research to ensure that there really is a demand in your area – the demand does differ greatly from region to region.
  2. Ensure that you get the appropriate planning permission in place.
  3. Make sure that you have high speed and reliable internet, with good access and parking.
  4. Consider the tax and insurance implications of converting agricultural buildings in to office space.
  5. Make sure you formalise any arrangements with the occupiers to maintain control.

With rural leases often being signed directly with land-owners, rather than large companies, the negotiating process can be very different to what business owners are used to. We’re here to help.

We would also like to give you access to the full 95-page Future Workspaces report, of which rural working is one of many topics discussed and debated. Download your free copy here.

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About the Author
Mary Wathen, Partner, Head of Agricultural Property

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