Long-term telework could spur renovations in offices and homes
After spending several months settling into the routines and technologies of telework, American employers and workers have started to make longer-term commitments to remote workers. That paradigm shift could create new opportunities and requirements for contractors in both the commercial and residential sectors.
Faced with the realities of the pandemic and a heightened acceptance of telework, many employers are expecting to function with a hybrid workforce for the foreseeable future. In particular, large percentages of office workers will continue to conduct all or most of their work at home. Company offices will function with significantly fewer workers onsite, host selective work and meetings, and serve as a physical embodiment of corporate culture.
“I see it as a really good option for companies for saving money, creating really cool space and giving employees a really good work-life balance,” said Don Kammann, Executive Vice President of Price Modern.
But to support those new working arrangements, employers will have to make some modifications to existing offices. Companies will need offices, meeting rooms, huddle rooms, flex spaces that allow socially distanced, onsite workers to effectively collaborate with remote workers. While Zoom, Teams or WebEx meetings support communication, effective collaboration within hybrid work teams often requires a higher level of technology. That includes large monitors or LED video walls and advanced videoconferencing equipment, including improved speakers, microphones and smart cameras that automatically focus on the speaker. For some offices, it will include interactive white boards that enable all participants, onsite and remote, to work on the same design or other document simultaneously. In some offices, employers will need to move walls, improve lighting and acoustics, and install more bandwidth.
Meanwhile, employees who are working mostly from home and expect to continue that routine long term, may start looking to improve their workspace.
“Early on when everybody thought this was a very temporary situation, people were happy to set up on the dining room table or wherever they could camp out at home and just work there,” Kammann said.
Longer term teleworking, however, may spur some renovation projects to create proper and comfortable home offices.
Creating an office in an existing home can be challenging due to lack of space, said Jeff Penza, Principal of Penza Bailey Architects, which frequently designs home offices for clients. A good home office needs some seclusion but also natural light and visual connection to the outside world. Consequently, many basements aren’t ideal locations. The office also needs to be properly outfitted.
“You need to have a really nice workspace. A place where you can stay organized is probably the most important thing. You need the right furniture so your files aren’t ending up all over the floor,” Penza said. “You need good lighting for the computer and good lighting for Zoom meetings…If you are presenting in Zoom meetings and need to look your best, you need to think hard about where you are placing your computer so you are not backlit.”
Furniture manufacturers are already moving to meet the needs of teleworkers.
Up until now, “furniture available for home offices looked nice and had that residential aesthetic, but it wasn’t as ergonomic as it should be,” Kammann said. Meanwhile, “commercial furniture is a little too engineered and large scale to really fit into a residential environment. The industry agrees there will be products that lighten the aesthetic of the commercial product but maintain the durability and ergonomics of it so it works well in a home office.”