How 32 Million Americans ‘Working at Home’ is Changing Our Lives and Living Spaces
Remote working is a significant trend in the US workplace, and it’s changing not only the way we work but the way we live, as well. In new construction and renovations alike, making home offices that are more functional and appealing to use is a growing trend.
GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com reports that 2.5% of all employees now work at home at least half the time, and 20-25% work at home some of the time. 22% of the self-employed population works at home. That’s an estimated 3.5 to 4 million working at home full or at least half time and another 28 million working at home less than half time.
Employees support this trend, as “80-90% of the US workforce says they would like to telework at least part time.”
As remote working becomes more prevalent, the need for home offices becomes more pressing. A remote worker may not be working in the corporate headquarters, but they still have to do their work somewhere. The American Institute of Architects lists “Need for space devoted to home offices, reflecting changing work patterns” as one of their top 10 residential design trends for the next 10 years.
Better-designed home office spaces allow those who spend many hours working at home to be productive instead of “making do” in a common area, such as a kitchen table. Among households with kids under 18 present, having a separate, well-designed office area can allow the worker to concentrate more effectively.
To be sure, while shared office spaces are a popular trend with Millennials as evidenced by WeWork and other sources, the reality is when kids are present, schedules are tight, and commuting to an office, whether shared or other, takes time away from family. And conducting phone calls and meetings in common areas (such as the kitchen) with young children present is challenging. One dual career couple in Chicago designed their new home with two home offices (one for each person), as well as three bedrooms (two children and master).
President of Zoo in a Jungle Marketing Amanda Cullen recently completed a 500 square foot addition to her home in Cincinnati, OH. A large reason for this renovation was to expand her home office space. She explains:
“I run my business completely from my home office. As my business expanded, my company outgrew the spare bedroom previously used for the office. Designing a new office from the blueprint up allowed me to optimize the space, including a welcoming area where I can meet with clients instead of meeting at a local coffee shop.”
Boomer Entrepreneurs Need Space to Work, Too
Beyond telecommuters and entrepreneurs, retiring Boomers are also influencing the home office trend. Many anticipate an “encore career,” including the opportunity to work at home and be self-employed. According to the study Working In Retirement:
“75% of workers aged 50 and older expect to have retirement jobs in the future…. A significant number of employees transition to self-employment for their retirement job…. In fact, nearly a third of those working for someone else in their pre-retirement job became their ‘own boss’ when they transitioned to retirement jobs.”
Ann Carrns writes in The Seattle Times:
“A wave of retirements among baby boomers in the coming decades will have a big impact on residential real estate, in ways that are upending some conventional assumptions. Baby boomers are working longer or opting for ‘phased’ retirements, in which they work at least part time after leaving their primary careers.”
Lynne Snead of Coarsegold, CA provides one story of the newly self-employed retiree:
“At age 47, the company where I was a vice president, decided to eliminate the division of the company I was a part of. I had spent 15 years as a project management consultant, trainer and author but it was time for a change. I then obtained a graduate degree in Corporate Coaching and certifications as a behavioral and axiological analyst. I started a consulting practice providing assessments and coaching to organizations to assist with talent selection and leadership development. Now I do most of my work from my home office via phone and computer.”
Aging Boomers are enjoying the financial benefits and personal fulfillment of their “encore” entrepreneurship. Senior living communities also need to adjust their offerings to accommodate home office spaces. This competitive industry needs to stay apace of Boomer lifestyles to stay relevant in the marketplace. Recent offerings in the industry indicate that senior living communities are striving to stay competitive.
One industry trend concerns offerings surrounding technology that enables independence. From SeniorHomes:
“Independent living is at the top of the list for most seniors and most are serious about technology. That means that senior living communities must offer state-of-the-art systems for computer-savvy seniors. Those leaving the workforce today have become accustomed to and very adept at building their careers and a portion of their personal lives around computers. Seniors want services available that will allow them to maintain independence.”
Stepping up their technology, educational and common space offerings could pave the way for these communities to also start investing in office space for residents.
From Gen X and Millennial families defining their own career paths to Boomers with post-retirement, home-based businesses, working at home has become more popular and socially acceptable. The home office is changing from a secondary space used infrequently to an important living and work space in millions of homes. Homes are increasingly used as income sources, whether as work spaces or with renting out space through airBnB, and this creates opportunity. Brands in this space need to anticipate these market changes and innovate to meet them.