As we look back on the past two years, most of us realize the major work and life transformation we have experienced together. To most people, working from home before the pandemic was considered a luxury, today it is commonplace. Per Forbes, one in five full-time employees work from home today, and a significant 28 percent of full-time employees have adapted and settled into a hybrid work model.
I often reflect fondly on 2016, the year I started CATalyzing Communications. Our company provides comprehensive, personalized marketing services for technology integrators, manufacturers and the industry at large. We also happen to serve some top interior designers. As such, we’re fortunate to have a unique, 360-degree view of the technology and home design-build communities. And thanks to an ever-advancing digital world, our team has been operating, creating and delivering remotely – not since the pandemic – but since the start. Why? We’re more connected, productive, and people don’t have to spend a large part of their day traveling.
By the Numbers
While we often hear “people are back at work in full force,” if we dig deeper, we find the reality is a bit different. Hey, I get it, people are ready to move quickly past that time in history. But let’s slow down for a moment. From the statistics, the home office continues to be a key part of our lives and represents opportunity.
From a builder’s view, the home office took a downturn until 2020, then it boomed back with a vengeance. In 2023, virtually every new home-build design provides options for a home office such as a dedicated space, a spare bedroom or a basement. “All our current floor plans have a space for an office thanks to buyer feedback,” shared a Dallas-based home builder. Chicago-based Lexington Homes found that almost 100-percent of buyers of townhomes in a specific area choose a home office option.
On the work front, as companies attempt to push employees back to the office, we’ve seen employees push back also, like the 30,000 Amazon employees who joined a Slack channel to collectively fight returning to the office. And, per The New York Times, of a recent analysis of 50 million job postings, there’s been a four times increase in jobs that mention remote work. During my own team hiring interviews this year, we experienced each candidate asking about our hybrid protocol within the first 40 minutes. The commercial arena exploded post-pandemic, with countless new technologies that connect staff wherever they are and put them on more equal footing for enhanced interaction with programs such as Microsoft Teams. And young people entering the workforce expect WFH options.
The Crystal Ball
Remote work isn’t going anywhere. If we stay engaged, this means opportunity for builders, designers and integrators to continue to align and deliver awe-inspiring home office solutions to customers. And, thanks to manufacturers making technologies that elevate the home office, we have the power to do it. Since 2020, there’s been a rise of technology solutions for the connected home office including advanced enterprise-grade home networks from companies like WhyReboot and Snap One.
“When it came to upgrading home networks, when I was with Audio Video Systems, Inc., we were all in, as were most integration companies,” shared Franklin Karp, Founder of Franklin Karp & Co. “Taking responsibility for printers and PCs was not our focus, but advanced wi-fi networks and large screen displays were right in our wheelhouse.”
Other recent technology advancements include cable management boxes and desktop power centers from companies such as Legrand, slick home video conferencing products from Logitech, and ergonomically savvy home huddle desks from companies like Salamander Designs. But this is just the start of how we can achieve the ideal home office through today’s technology and design.
The Right Lighting is Critical
In a home office, lighting perhaps plays an even more important role than in other areas, as it must be just right for work, meetings, and computer viewing. Having lights that can change quickly for impromptu video conferencing and hybrid collaboration becomes critical. Thankfully, lighting systems and controls from companies like Lutron fit the bill beautifully. And, today we even have new natural lighting that mimics sunlight to boost our at-home productivity and energy levels – not to mention better sleep at night to be ready for that early morning meeting.
Shades To Suit Designers and Workers Alike
In speaking further with our integration clients, we asked what technologies customers are now requesting most for home offices. Jake Vitrofsky, COO for HEDsouth, said, “We’ve designed and installed some home offices for our clients in South Florida with the usual suspects like home networks, music and big screens, but surprisingly, motorized shades are often requested for the home office.” I was immediately reminded of my home office redesign in 2021, when I wanted nicer décor for Zoom calls. A top item on my list was a motorized shade to help desk lighting during video meetings in morning hours. All of our integration clients offer a huge range of designer shades that can be incorporated into a home control system, as mine are, via the Savant app. Plus, I can dim lights without ever leaving my chair.
Automate and Advance
We often talk about the smart home, and a large part of that conversation now includes the smart office. Through handy mobile apps or elegant wall keypads, it’s easier than ever to set the video meeting lighting just right with a single button press to adjust lighting and shades, turn off the background music and get down to business.
But even bigger benefits abound. In our home, we have two offices, and frankly, they get more use than for work alone. These rooms have morphed into great multipurpose spaces where we can video conference with family, listen to music (as I write this article), and search online on the big screen for the latest couch I’ve been coveting. So, it’s been well worth the investment.
As a technology and design community, every day we build dreams for others. Now we can work smarter, rather than harder, by bringing together a team of experts who can design offices as we do the rest of the house – in a more personalized, functional, and beautiful way. Let’s make technology work for us and our customers.
Cat Toomey is a senior executive with 28 years of high-tech and global consumer electronics experience. Her global company and marketing company CATalyzing Communications serves technology and lifestyle sectors through digital and traditional solutions in residential and enterprise/pro arenas. Cat is a Dealerscope 40 Under 40 winner.