The rise, fall and rise of the home office

No matter what back to in-office work looks like, the home office has once again become a coveted feature of modern living

Photo: Rodney Lover

THERE IS A lot we still don’t yet know about the office of the near future, the one many employees may return to over the next few years — how safe it will be, how much time anyone will spend there and even how necessary it is at all — remain open questions.

However those questions are answered, Rodney Lover, dealer principal at Lovers atWork Office Furniture, sees the return of the home office as an inevitability.

“The last year has certainly legitimized people ­working at home,” he says. “But even if we double or triple the number of people that work from home, that’s still only about 15 per cent of the population. People will go back to the office, but there’s going to be a lot more people working from home and feeling like they’re legitimate.”

Perhaps this is nothing new to you — for much of the last year, after all, we’ve heard pronouncements (both triumphant and nervous) that the age of the office is coming to an end. But for Lover, the real question isn’t whether the office stays or goes, but how both home offices and workplace offices are changing.

“I remember a time when the home office was considered the poor man’s option,” Lover re-calls. “Now, people from all walks of life are really considering it” —Rodney Lover

The home office is undergoing something of a renaissance, Lover says. The rise of laptop computers in the early 2000s did a lot to kill off the idea of a dedicated office in the home — a set-apart space might seem pointless when your laptop offers so much portability.

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“It kind of went away because laptops could be used at the couch,” Lover says. “[But now] people are trying to figure out, ‘How much space do I have? Can I make a little bit of a larger work area? Can I fit a couple more people?’ People are going to dedicate a room again.”

Throughout the pandemic, Lovers atWork has been outfitting new home offices, so he’s witnessed firsthand trend to bring some of the familiar office signifiers — an ergonomic chair, standing desks and so on — into the home.

The rise, fall and rise of the home office home office EnterpriseRodney Lover and some of the staff at Lovers atWork Office Furniture

But Lover doesn’t think that Covid will mark the beginning of the end for the traditional office. Rather, he predicts that the markets for both home and ­commercial offices will start to move towards each other.

As remote work becomes more common (even if it’s only part-time), he thinks people will want to have a sense of continuity. Working from home has certainly been made more office-y over the past year, but now he predicts that the office will be made more homey — the rise of a ‘resommercial’ style of office based around “bringing the residential influences into the offices,” he says. “I would say that styles have been getting softer, simpler and homier.”

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Working from home, he says, has opened people’s eyes up to what was and was not working with the modern workplace. One casualty of the pandemic? The open-concept office model. “People want more segmentation and higher panels,” he says — for a variety of reasons. Some of that is safety, yes, but a lot of it is people yearning for a return of privacy and coziness.

“People want to be able to be ­segmented and take their mask off,” Lover says. “It flipped very quickly.”

In the end, Lover hopes all of this will continue to be good for business. Lovers atWork’s online sales division has been busy since the start of the pandemic, he says, in part because their speciality has been smaller office designs. “Now we’re doing virtual consultations all over Canada.”

Either way, the home office is poised to change yet again. “I remember a time when the home office was considered the poor-man’s option,” Lover recalls. “Now, people from all walks of life are really considering it. People are truly stepping up their home-office game.” The rise, fall and rise of the home office home office Enterprise Kieran Delamont

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