Working from home for at least some of the week is set to become a permanent arrangement for many employees, so they need to ensure their workspace is fit for purpose
A recent poll by YouGov for the BBC found that 70% of people believe that workers will not return to offices in the same way as before the pandemic, and that most employees prefer to work at home either part or full-time. This means that, as the home office becomes either the primary or part-time workspace, consumers are continuing to upgrade their environments beyond desks and chairs. “Resellers should expect to see a trend towards office solutions that do not detract from the décor of their homes and help end-users create workspaces that feel personal and appealing,” says Elisabete Wells, marketing director at ACCO UK Ltd.
“The average professional spends eight hours of their day working; therefore, the home office needs to offer more than just aesthetics and become a comfortable space that these workers enjoy spending time in. Expect to see a trend towards products that not only look great, but also help support wellbeing. We plan to expand our Cosy range soon to help meet the increase in demand for ergonomic and wellbeing solutions.
“Resellers should seize this opportunity to introduce or upgrade their customers to solutions that will help them to create a home workspace that is comfortable, inviting and suits their personal tastes. Our homes are an expression of our individual styles, and the home workspace is an extension of this. It is crucial that resellers adopt this mindset in their marketing materials – to offer their customers solutions rather than products – and expand their offering accordingly.”
Matter of taste
Mark Galliano, managing director of Teknik Office, agrees that customers want to personalise their workspaces, adding that individuals buying for themselves have different priorities from those buying for an office. “While price tends to be a key driver for office furniture, with home office it is not quite as critical and other factors come into play – most notably, personal taste and style,” he says.
“When purchasing furniture for home the consumer response is far more emotional than when purchasing for offices and the subtle differences in taste are hugely varied, so a wide choice is needed; language is a good indicator of this – traditional, modern, loft, shaker, industrial, farmhouse and cottage are not usually words associated with office furniture but, with WFH furniture, they are. As are the type of products; alongside larger workstations and executive desks we are seeing strong demand for wall-mounted, space-saving, discreet, corner items that fit into homes where exclusive ‘office’ space is not available.”
Mark adds that, at Teknik, they have noticed that black, grey, white and primary colours seem less popular. “In the main, consumers tend to lean towards natural colours like different wood finishes and creams/off whites to fit in with their existing décor.
“It is also important to have suitable matching furniture available; sideboards, bookcases, coffee tables, side tables – even TV stands – as consumers tend to want ‘domestic room style’ furniture for their home offices so it fits into their houses.
“These additional items can offer a great opportunity to increase the individual sale from a single workstation and chair to a full suite of products. Our existing retailers are already enjoying the benefits of this, particularly as the products we make available for the WFH market are all self-assembly, so the dealer doesn’t have to worry about installation.”
Working from home on a permanent basis also means customers need to consider equipment they may not have previously thought of, such as chair mats. “On average, an office chair travels about five miles a year, all in a small area around the entrance to the desk; this results in permanent, irreversible and expensive damage to hard floors or carpets over time,” explains John Barker, marketing manager at Floortex Europe Ltd.
“The typical worker probably has little concern regarding floor damage in the work office but almost certainly would if it was within their own home. By using a chair mat the floor is fully protected, and the user also gets an ergonomic, easy-glide surface for their caster-based chair.”
John adds that a chair mat should be offered as an integral part of anyone’s home office set up. “Available in PVC as an entry price option, or polycarbonate for the ultimate strength and durability, mats are available in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit all environments,” he explains. “Pointing out potential floor damage issues, together with the simple, yet effective, chair mat solution, provides dealers with valid added value sale.”
Separating work and home
However, as Monika Starkey, marketing manager at Durable (UK) Ltd notes, while working at home has many advantages, such as better work-life balance, 56% of home workers say that separating work and private life is a problem, and 54% say their home office is not well-equipped. “But there are already clever solutions for dividing areas – even in the smallest spaces – and for working well with minimal, but multi-functional, equipment,” she says.
“If your bedroom or living room is your office too, portable organisers create a professional working environment by day, and let you revert back to a personal space by night. Durable has a range of clever lines like tablet holders and drawer boxes that keep documents organised while blending with your living environment. Light is also an essential element of good office design; Luctra Flex is the perfect portable light with a battery life of up to 40 hours.”
Another consideration is dealing with the wires that technical devices come with. “These devices can stop a space looking like a home; besides being a major trip hazard, tangled wires also look messy,” she says, but there are a number of different cable management solutions available to tame the cable spaghetti.
“When choosing office equipment, pay attention to the look as well as the functionality,” Monika advises. “Good designs meet both requirements.”