How the Pandemic Has Reshaped Office Design

During the lockdowns, businesses had an excuse to try out work-from-home models and see how well it works. Is it better than office spaces? Worse? Just different? Offices and and work-from-home models both have their advantages and disadvantages, and the experience will be different for different people. By surveying employees who had a chance to work from home, some companies are rethinking whether they want an office space at all. Those who are keeping their offices are also learning what they can do to make the office a better place to work.

The main advantage of office space has frequently been assumed to be that workers are more productive without the distractions of home. While this is true for some people, especially those with young kids, by and large productivity has actually been higher using a work-from-home model. Some of this can be attributed to employees specifically focusing on work because they don’t want to appear unproductive, but for the company, this achieves the same result.

According to employees at advertising and marketing firm R/GA, the purpose of the office was not productivity. It’s human connection and collaboration. Two of the biggest disadvantages they saw while working from home is that they missed seeing their coworkers and weren’t able to coordinate with them efficiently. Many of them wanted to keep working from home, but still be able to access the office a few days a week to meet with coworkers. R/GA saw that as a pointer for how they could change the office experience to prioritize it being a collaborative space. Individual desks and cubicles serve little purpose here — what’s needed is more informal meeting rooms. There are larger conference rooms, but those don’t allow for smaller teams to work together without interruptions from other groups coming and going.

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Incorporating a Home Office into Your Home

The trend of home offices is continuing to rise, and wasn’t just a result of the pandemic. In fact, it was already on the rise before the pandemic started. Some people already had spaces for a home office, others attempted to make do with what space they had. Now, builders and renovators are catching on and looking for ways to incorporate home offices into their plans.

The problem that designers are tackling is creating a space that works for everyone. Builders know that the space needs to be flexible, so they’re making flex spaces, usually on the main floor. But many people also want their home offices to be private. Sharing office space, even with someone who lives with you, can be loud or distracting. Combined with the fact that many homes don’t have a lot of space to work with, spaces for home offices must be large enough to do the work you need to do, yet small enough to be a separate space. It’s a difficult balance.

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Home offices now in high demand

As I’m sure you already know, the lockdowns from COVID-19 have resulted in many workers needing to resort to working from home — potentially as many as 40%. This means that workers want a space in their home to work comfortably, something many homeowners and especially renters don’t have. Spaces not designed to be a home office can be inefficient or distracting, leading to lower productivity, so extra space for a home office is increasingly becoming a priority for buyers’ next purchases.

A survey by Zillow asked people working from home what their current configuration is and how it would affect future purchasing decisions. The survey found that only a third of those working from home have a dedicated home office space, and two-thirds needed to reconfigure existing rooms. Respondents’ top reasons to consider buying a new home were either a dedicated office space or just more space in general, letting other historically popular considerations like location and price fall by the wayside. Even after the pandemic ends, buyers are are looking to make their next purchase futureproof. Sellers and construction companies are also noticing the trend.

Are you also looking for dedicated office space or extra rooms for your next home? Does your own home fit the bill, and you want to sell? Whether you’re buying or selling, we can find a match for you. Call or email us!

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