When the lockdowns first began, masses of people were thrust into working from home. Employers were caught off guard too. Many companies initially struggled to offer their employees desks and equipment to set up remotely. Scenes played out of employees frantically carting off computer monitors from their offices. Online sales of office furniture soared as others tried to retrofit their living spaces into working ones. On home design platform Houzz, online searches for “desk” and “home office” rose in popularity in March by 89% and 95% respectively. For the majority of people, this started as a makeshift endeavor. Space and privacy have been a premium, as in many cases, childcare, homeschooling, or other household members are a cacophony around them. Working from a couch or a kitchen table has also become tiresome for a lot of people. Now that working from home is the long-term norm, those who can afford to, are looking to design their home working space to be fit for purpose, ergonomic, and aesthetically pleasing.
Some organisations are providing employees with stipends in order to set up their ideal home office space. A few months ago, a top court in Switzerland even decided that companies must contribute to their employees’ rent if they are working from home. Tech companies have been among the most generous, with the majority offering employees $1,000 for home office improvements. People are getting creative, adapting spare rooms or even closets or garden sheds into working spaces. Movement Events, an Irish company which pivoted to create Movement Pods during lockdown, develops freestanding, outdoor room that is multi-functional, but ideal for a home office. According to the experts, carving out a designated space is important for ensuring work and life don’t blend too closely. However, expanding isn’t the only approach. Designers around the globe are helping people to rethink the space they already have with features like sliding walls and custom storage. Kelly Creations in Cork, for example, told the Irish Examiner they have been ‘inundated with requests’ for bespoke pieces such a wardrobe which acts as an office space. HKS, an architecture firm in Los Angeles, has been taking inspiration from Japanese apartments where every inch of space is multifunctional.
Over the last few months, there has also been a host of articles published to help people design home offices independently. Most recommend several basic tenants: a sturdy chair and desk which are ergonomic, storage, and proper lighting to prevent eye strain. However, once these boxes are checked, people have a real opportunity to add a personal flair that would not normally be available in a corporate setting. There is a focus, not just on productivity, but making a space that one can feel inspired and at ease in—plus that looks good on Zoom! People are expressing their individuality and treating themselves to office accessories like indoor plants, wall art, and stationary. Irish brands such as Superfolk and Industry & Co have a lot to offer in this space, as do Scandinavian brands such as Jysk and Søstrene Grene. As working from home continues to be the plan for living with Coronavirus, brands can expect the home office to have our attention in ways it never has. No longer is the office an afterthought in home design. People will be continuously on the lookout for ways to enhance their setups and create working spaces which aesthetically represent their professional aspirations. Especially as the pandemic has ushered in new levels of career stress and uncertainty, ‘dressing the part’ when it comes to home office design may be the daily comfort and encouragement people are craving. Brands should be on the lookout for ways to deliver on this.