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Working from home during the pandemic has led to change and sacrifice. Space is at a premium in our homes and apartments now more than ever as we accommodate new home offices, workspaces, and schooling spaces. Dining room tables are now cluttered with monitors and cables, basements have become prime real estate, and even bedrooms now have desks and workstations. Work and school clutter are wreaking havoc in our personal spaces and only adding to the anxiety of the pandemic.
While many companies are in the midst of planning for their “opening up” strategies, it is clear that office density will not return to pre-COVID numbers. Many companies are considering continued work-from-home policies for their employees after the country “opens up.” The future corporate office may look like more of a homeroom—a place where employees come together occasionally for short and socially distanced collaborations and important decision-making meetings. This means home officing is here to stay.
Employers have relied heavily on their IT departments in recent months to deal with the needs of home officing. From communication platforms such as video conferencing to remote server access to software licenses, the challenges have been widespread but have been overcome. The increase in productivity as a result of home officing has been widely reported—no commute time, less office distractions, and increased work hours. However, employees are now being asked to wrestle with home life and work life at the same time during business hours—often leading to interruptions from grocery deliveries, children, the family dog, or even spouses. This juggling of public and private within our homes is not only leading to cramped spaces, but it is also creating burnout.
Working from home is here to stay, and employers must now focus on their employees’ needs. Stipends that previously supported mass transit allowances, mileage reimbursements, parking allowances, and other office perks may be re-appropriated to help employees working from home with their daily needs. Printers and ink cartridges, scanners, desks, task lights, and increased internet speed must be part of the solution to provide employees with the tools they need to perform.
The primary challenges in home officing is adequate space, tools, and privacy. The clear opportunity exists within the development community to rethink multifamily housing for the COVID-19 environment and beyond. How can this be done immediately?
With this in mind, there are fundamental changes that can be made in both existing and future apartment buildings. By simply decommissioning a wing or a former commercial space of an apartment building and retrofitting it for safe and personal home office pods, we can fill the need for quiet and separate work environments while still being “at home.” We are calling these spaces HOMEWork.
The images below illustrate the potential layout of a mixed-use apartment building with retrofitted apartments into home office suites within the same building. These private home office pods could be rented by the building management, similar to rentable storage areas, to existing tenants with space and privacy needs. This solution allows employees (tenants) an “escape” from the living room and its distractions, offering workers a quiet and more permanent personal workspace with the convenience and comforts of working where you live. This HOMEWork example converts six apartments into a VIP rentable home officing suite.
Smart developers and management companies can market the HOMEWork suites as an amenity for present and future leasers—a branded VIP suite with perks and benefits to attract tenants and leverage the property while serving the COVID-19 work-from-home needs of its tenants. Smart employers could reallocate current mass transit stipends, parking allowances, and other employee perks to support the rent of the office suite for its workers.
Imagine a VIP card to open the touchless entry door to the HOMEWorksuite and, much like a hotel room key, this card gives you access to your suite, which you can rent by the month or by the year. The VIP card gives you lounge access to coffee, water, soda, vending machines, and even discounts for Uber Eats. Office suites can be furnished with desks, modern-styled light fixtures and desk chairs, high-speed internet, power, regular cleaning, and upgraded HVAC systems with state-of-the-art air filters to ensure safety.
The branded HOMEWork suites offer a safe and private work-from-home environment in a hip and design-oriented setting. Larger suites can be rented to accommodate two desks for spouses or partners to have their own workspaces as they juggle child-care needs in their apartments. Gone are the power cables in the kitchen, living rooms, and bedrooms in the apartments. Home can be home—home officing through HOMEWork can be a luxurious “at-home getaway.”