The home office is here to stay.
A Forbes.com report estimates by 2025 some 32.6 million Americans will work from home, or about 22% of the nation’s workforce.
What’s more, 99% of workers want to work from home – at least part of the time, the report said. Despite a steady rise in work from home arrangements, 59.1% of American workers still report to an in person office environment, Forbes.com said.
As many corporate employees settle into a post pandemic work from home arrangement, conversations around home offices may reconsider these spaces to better suit the needs of not only at home workers – but their families.
Whether you conduct business 100% from home or have a hybrid work situation, home offices are becoming more flexible spaces, according to Pam Lazor, an interior designer and owner of Casa Double L Interior Design in Riegelsville.
“Some people are turning the home office more into a study, and they’re softening it up or making it a multipurpose space,” Lazor said.
Decorilla.com predicts 2024 will usher in “the ultimate work from home” experience with reconsidered furnishings, fresh lighting, natural accessories and materials – all aimed at optimizing work from home productivity.
Warmer neutrals, colors found in nature and personalized pops of color help integrate the home office, creating an even more inviting environment.
When it comes to virtual meetings, think about your home office décor. Is your desk positioned against a neutral background? Do mementos enhance – or distract from – your professional interactions?
Skype and Zoom meetings, interviews and other visual real time appointments should inform your home office lighting decisions.
“One of the most important things with Zoom calls is having appropriate lighting – it can really make a difference,” said Todd R. Hurley, a Realtor at eXp Realty The Tom Smeland Team in Doylestown.
Lighting that blinds the Zoom participant, furniture placement that positions you in glaring natural light from a window or any other “high beam” distraction should prompt a reposition and rethinking of the room’s layout. Dark or cave-like lighting is another problem, as you may not be clearly visible to those on the other end of the call.
If the room is well lit by direct natural light, consider appropriate window treatments, blinds or shutters to adjust daylight into the space.
Lamps, overhead and task lighting should also be appropriate to the setting for video calls – whether that means installing dimmers or positioning desks and seating to better advantage for your Zoom call exchanges.
If you have a prized collection that’s more personal than professional in your home work space consider moving your desk to a less visually active area for video calls and interactions.
Another option is to take advantage of background image blurring options on video call software – cautiously.
Some virtual software backgrounds place you in a different local from the one in which your office is located. Is that the message you want to convey?
Adding a virtual background might seem like an easy way to amp up your calls, but some of these tools create fluid-like distractions for the viewer, so keep that in mind.
Beware of shadows, halos or other odd looking disturbances that can appear on the screen and seen by the viewer when using a virtual background.
Other software options give you the ability to blur an existing background - a handy tool to reduce too much light glare or if you must take a call and would rather not have background clearly visible.
While open concept floor plans continue to dominate new home construction, they may not be ideal for conducting work from home phone or virtual calls and business, especially in an active household.
“Having a door to the home office space that can be closed for privacy is really important” when on the clock and conducting business meetings and calls, Hurley said.
Dennis Gehman, president of Gehman Design Remodeling in Harleysville, Montgomery County said during the pandemic some clients converted formal dining rooms into home office spaces.
He predicts the open floor layout – ideal for entertaining and creating family community – may become problematic for the home working professional who craves or requires privacy during business hours.
“For now we still have calls for open floor plans. As trends change over the coming years, I do expect in some of those settings we may be putting walls up where we took them down, ” Gehman explained.
From barking dogs and road noise to everyday household activity, playful youngsters or enthusiastic teens noise is part of most people’s lives.
John Gemmi, owner of Gemmi Construction, Inc. in Buckingham Township said acoustical insulation is an option to reduce or eliminate noise and sound distractions for the work from home professional.
“In a current renovation, we’re doing a drop sweep (on the bottom of the office door) so the interior door will have a hidden piece that drops from the door to the floor,” to help seal the room from sound, Gemmi explained.
“Sound travels on wood flooring, and the drop sweep helps seal the space without it being unsightly,” he said.
Adding “acoustic solutions” is becoming more popular with those working from home.
Both Gemmi and Gehman said there are fewer requests for home offices located in lower home levels unless windows and/or walk out access is available.
Instead, property owners are looking at lessor used rooms in the home to reinvent.
In some cases adding a shed on the property – away from the main house – to serve as a home office is the best solution, Gemmi said.