WRITTEN BY ASHLEY SUTPHIN
Working from home was a trend that was already picking up significant steam before the coronavirus pandemic. Now, as more people around the world work from home than ever before, it could be impacting everything including real estate.
In just a few months, people have shifted their lifestyles in drastic ways, and companies have asked employees to telecommute whenever possible.
It was perhaps the tipping point the work-from-home revolution needed.
COVID-19 and The Work-From-Home Shift
The benefits of working from home even outside a global pandemic?
More flexibility for both employees and employers, more work-life balance, and reduced overhead costs for employers. An estimated 40% of all venture capital in Silicon Valley goes to landlords rather than product development, highlighting just how much could be saved if employers were to maintain telecommuting and reduce their physical location requirements.
In fact, with the massive shift to telecommuting that’s taken place over the past few months, many employers doubt if they’ll ever bring employees back to the office, at least in the traditional sense.
Twitter was one of the first companies saying they were going completely remote. Others have followed or at least said they’re considering it, including Facebook and Barclays.
Garner reported their recent survey found 75% of respondents said they planned to increase their number of permanent remote employees.
Interestingly from the employer perspective, this shift to remote workforces also increases their access to a broader talent pool without geographic limitations.
So what does all this mean for real estate?
The implications are dire for commercial real estate, but in residential real estate, it could mean more people are free to move away from urban areas and to less expensive places. It also means the home office could be one of the more coveted features buyers are searching for.
Early on in the pandemic, 55% of homeowners said they have a home office, while a quarter of respondents said they work primarily from their kitchen or dining room table. Eleven percent said they work from their sofa.
The same survey said the biggest challenge they were facing as they started working from home was finding a place in their home that was quiet and private enough to work, away from high-traffic spaces. Twenty-five percent also said creating a comfortable workspace was a big challenge for them.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) conducted their own preference study, “What Home Buyers Really Want.” According to their results, both prospective and recent home buyers want a home office. In fact, their most recent survey was in 2018, and even then, before the pandemic, 65% said they wanted a home office.
Having a home office might even be a tax deduction if you have your own business, or if you’re an employee who qualifies for said deduction, which is one more reason it might be a must-have on the modern buyer’s list.
Designing a Home Office
Whether you’re hoping to sell your home soon and you want to stage it to appeal to a buyer who wants an office or you’re setting up your own office, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Designate a space that’s away from the main areas of activity in your home. This might mean a spare bedroom, for example.
Buyers are often flexible with how space is used, and Millennial buyers, in general, are willing to be efficient and maximize their use of space. This means a guestroom can serve multiple purposes as an office space and still be appealing.
If you don’t have any obvious space for a home office, you can get a little creative. For example, convert a closet.
Beyond the space itself, comfort and lighting are both critical to a good home office design.
If you’re staging or setting up your workspace, you want an ergonomic arrangement. It’ll help you stay productive without dealing with pain and injuries.
For lighting, you should try to find a space with as much natural light as you can. Use a layered lighting concept with lamps and overhead light so you can create the appropriate ambiance when you need it.
While most states are easing lockdowns and offices are reopening in some places, that doesn’t mean we’re so willing to give up the convenience of working from home. It’ll likely have a significant impact on real estate, from the locations where buyers are moving to the list of priorities they use when selecting a new home.