Prior to March of 2020, a very small percentage of the workforce had experience with working from home in some capacity, while the overwhelming majority had never worked from home at all. And though employers were already beginning to gravitate towards more flexibility in both the physical workplace and remote work, these trends were substantially accelerated by the pandemic. This period of time, combined with the unique circumstances presented by the pandemic, demanded a large portion of the workforce to dive head-first into remote work; a shift that leads both employers and employees to anticipate the continued implementation of flexibility in the workplace.
Companies and employees have seen many benefits emerge unexpectedly from a sustained increase in remote work. For example, as companies continue to offer remote options, many employees now have increased flexibility in where they live and are no longer tethered to urban hubs, which tend to be costlier than more suburban or rural locations. However, just as benefits have presented themselves, so have challenges; one being the infrastructure concern that has emerged with the necessity of reliable high-speed internet, which is found to be an underserved need in many communities.
These trends, along with the money and time saved by less commuting, have a noticeable effect on the requirements that individuals have for their living spaces. Many with more available income are looking for additional space or added amenities that are customized to their new work-from-home needs. Specifically, in multi-family living, spaces are being adapted in the following ways:
The need for onsite coworking spaces with a mix of both private and group spaces is becoming more popular and widely acknowledged. There is also a push to prioritize outdoor common spaces to allow for gathering while remaining intentional about comfortable distancing.
Because of the infrastructure required for hours and hours of video meetings, it is imperative to offer a healthy technology package for connectivity. While working from home, individuals have the option of working from a desk, the sofa, private outdoor space, the dining room table, etc. This flexibility also increases the need for sufficient electrical infrastructure and is thoughtfully planned to ensure an outlet is always no further than a charging cord’s length away.
Emphasis is put on flexible multi-functional spaces that can be used for a variety of activities; hideaway desks in a living room or bedroom allow work to be put away at the end of the workday, and adjustable lighting gives the ability to change the mood of a space depending on the task at hand, and in larger units, a dedicated workspace may be important for privacy from other household activities or family members.
Incorporating wellness into a space can show that the community is dedicated to health and safety. In addition to onsite workout facilities, developers may consider achieving a Fitwell or WELL certification, which impacts a wide range of building systems and requirements aimed at improving occupant experience from a health and wellness perspective. It is also helpful to be intentional when considering finishes that are easily cleanable and anti-microbial. The touchless operation of elevators, doors, and faucets in common spaces is also worth consideration.
Remote work is here to stay and at varying levels. Multi-family developers and designers should take steps to anticipate the requirements of the employee in the home, planning spaces that are as flexible and adaptable as those who use them.