The WFH Evolution of the Home Office

man using the internet on laptop at home

More people than ever now work from home as a result of the pandemic, and this shift has necessitated a rethinking of how home offices are designed and furnished. The E-Commerce Times checked in with providers of workspace furniture and accessories for insights on how the adaptation to WFH has affected home office setups.

“It seems that the new focus on home office is here to stay,” Dave Adams, vice president of marketing for home furnishings provider BDI, told the E-Commerce Times. “Even post-pandemic, the way that people work will be shifted. Employers are finding that their employees can be productive from home. Large companies have invested heavily in remote work tools, and there’s no sign that they’ll be returning to the old way of doing business anytime soon.”

Contemporary home “offices,” in fact, might take the form of everything from the corner of a bedroom to the dining room table, and people are coming up with a variety of solutions to fit their own particular needs and spaces.

“In recent months, it seems like the key to working from home is creativity,” explained Adams. “People are creating workspace where there is no space, using anything from the coffee table to the dining table to an ironing board. We have seen some very creative solutions.

“A recent report stated that 46 percent of those who had never worked from home before now plan on working from home more often in the future. As people adapt to this new normal, they are searching for more permanent workspace solutions and we have seen a tremendous spike in interest for home office furniture.”

Thinking Small

One thing people working at home are finding is that doing more with less can be a helpful strategy.

“Not everyone has the room for a dedicated home office,” said Adams. “The new corner office may be the corner of your bedroom. Smaller-scale desks and writing tables are not only a space-saving solution; they are also an economical way to make the most use of available space.

“Even though you are working at a smaller scale, however, you should not have to sacrifice features. There are smaller-scale standing and seated desks that still include important features, such as wire management, keyboard drawers and additional storage options.”

Small pieces of furniture with multiple uses are becoming central to this new conception of the home office.

“With Mom, Dad and even the kids working from home, it’s understandable that everyone may not get their own dedicated workspace,” Adams added. “We have seen a surge in our small and mobile laptop tables that allow people to work productively while at the sofa, yet move out of the way when they aren’t needed.”

Laptop tables and desks can be particularly useful, since they can convert even bed or sofa space into a kind of office.

“Most of our customers are using it for their work,” Ashley Janssen, head of the communications department at WoodenLapDesk, told the E-Commerce Times, referring to the lap desk her company sells. “They are using it in their backyard or in their bedroom, or even as a semi-standing desk. Some of our customers plant the lap desk on their current desk and create a standing desk.”

People are finding lap desks, in fact, can be used for non-work-related pursuits, as well.

“Other purposes of the lap desk are for personal use, like drawing, sketching, watching Netflix series in your bedroom, or simply as a breakfast tray in bed,” said Janssen.

Versatile Design

Contemporary home office furniture and design must, ultimately, take into account changes in the way people work, communicate, and structure their lives.

“The demands of the home office have changed over time,” explained Adams. “People are working with a lot less paper, meaning the need for file storage has lessened for many. Computers have gotten smaller, and it’s almost unique to see a full desktop and CPU tower. With the advent of Bluetooth, there are fewer wires to manage and connections to juggle.”

Storage is also something that must be carefully considered when setting up a home office.

“In order to create an efficient and organized home office, you have to have more than just a desktop and four legs,” said Adams. “Consumers need to have integrated storage for supplies and accessories. Wiring needs to be properly routed and easily accessible. Keyboard drawers are a feature everyone seems to gravitate towards so that they can — even just symbolically — close up shop at the end of the day. Solutions that are expandable, with accessory pieces that can be added to as their needs change, are very popular.”

The Long Haul

Though the pandemic was what initially moved many peoples’ work into their homes, this new way of working may well become, to some degree, permanent. As people realize the magnitude of this shift, they’re rethinking their initial strategies and plans for home offices.

“When COVID lockdowns initially began in March, we saw an uptick in single item orders — specifically for office chairs — essentially simple items to supplement a home office set up and to help individuals get through the lockdown period until they could get back into the office,” Verity Sylvester, co-founder of Branch, told the E-Commerce Times.

“Over the last few months, we have noticed a shift in mentality to where customers are now purchasing complete office setups — chairs, desks, standing desks, filing cabinets, power accessories, etc. — as they realize that working from home is not just a short stint. It will be a longer and more permanent part of the way individuals work,” she observed.

The shift to working at home will likely even change how and where people decide to live in the first place.

“We believe the demand for home offices, and for more complete home offices, is only going to grow,” said Sylvester. “Individuals are at the point where they are now realizing that working from home is more permanent, and they are adapting how they live to accommodate how they want to work, moving into larger apartments and/or homes that can accommodate complete home offices.”

Home offices, as they become the norm, could mean a cultural shift in how houses are designed and what features buyers seek when they’re looking for a home.

“New home buyers are specifically shopping for dedicated rooms to create home offices in so they can have some separation between work and real life,” said BDI’s Adams. “The blurring of work and home lives has proved to be troublesome for many. As these dedicated offices become established, the need for larger-scale home systems will flourish.”

Vivian Wagner

Vivian Wagner has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. Her main areas of focus are technology, business, CRM, e-commerce, privacy, security, arts, culture and diversity. She has extensive experience reporting on business and technology for a varietyof outlets, including The Atlantic, The Establishment and O, The Oprah Magazine. She holds a PhD in English with a specialty in modern American literature and culture. She received a first-place feature reporting award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and is the author of Women in Tech: 20 Trailblazers Share Their Journeys, published by ECT News Network in May 2020. Email Vivian.

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