Stephanie A. Rizzuto

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One of the more recognizable side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is the dramatic increase in the number of people working from home. The shift to remote work has caused many of us to look at our current homes in a whole new light. And whether you’re logging hours from your couch or still searching for a Zoom-appropriate workspace, it’s not uncommon to be looking for a home office upgrade. 

Our “New” Normal: The Realities of Working From Home 

Global Workplace Analytics conducted an online survey between March 30 and April 24, 2020 asking over 2,600 global employees on their feelings towards working at home. Of those surveyed, over 77% of the workforce recorded that they would like to continue working from home at least weekly once the pandemic has ended. 

Some employers are embracing the reality of their employee’s responses. Steve Ozonian, CEO of Williston Financial Group, believes that the remote workforce will have a dramatic impact on our ‘new normal’.

Citing that the shift to remote work will, “make it less stressful for people because the commute is one of the worst parts of working and we are going to have cleaner air because of it”, Ozonian also predicts that the need for commercial office space and the average commute is going to plummet. 

When speculating on the future of remote work, Ozonian went on to state, “I believe it will be 50% -- that's probably the average amount that will stay at home because it is working so well. You are going to have happier employees and as long as they are productive and the quality of the work product is as good or better, why not?”

Sparking Change at Home

The shift from commuting to a commercial office space to resolving to work under the stairs or in a closet has many of us reconsidering what our work environment looks like at home. And while a dedicated home office is still generally considered a luxurious addition to a home, many of us have found ourselves having to carve out a dedicated workspace in our living rooms and wishing for a more traditional set-up. 

Many of us recognize that a quiet and organized workspace can help to create boundaries between our responsibilities at work and our lives at home. And as the majority of us find ourselves video chatting and Zoom calling with our colleagues at home, the desire for better lighting, additional storage, and a functional office space has increased. 

As we look towards a future of working remotely, the demand for home offices, more space, updated kitchens, and home gyms has increased. However, a home office offers benefits that go beyond satisfying immediate needs.  

Walter Molony, spokesman for the National Association of Realtors, has observed that an office tends to increase the value of the home as many buyers are willing to pay extra for a home with a dedicated office space. In citing ‘The Profile of Buyers’ Home Feature Preferences’ survey, Molony stated that, “When it comes to rooms buyers were willing to spend more for, one is a den/study/home office/library. Forty-four percent said they would be willing to pay $1,920 more for a home with that room.”

However, there are still benefits for those that aren’t looking to sell any time soon. Lorie Marrero, author of ‘The Home Office Handbook’, cites consumer’s ability to take a tax deduction on their home office space: “Generally, you qualify for a deduction if there is a clear separation between office and household. If you don’t have a separate room for your office, this often can be accomplished with a screen or partition.”

By adding up all of your office-related expenses or multiplying the square footage of your space by $5, you may be allowed to take a deduction of up to $1,500 for the dedicated space.

The Search for Square Footage

Within the first two weeks of April 2020, Realtor.com conducted a survey that included a nationally-representative sample of 1,300 consumers to ask how sheltering-in-place has changed their preferences for their current living conditions, as well as their needs for a potential new home. 

In response, consumers have reported an overwhelming desire for more space. Accounting for almost 20% of all responses, the search for square footage has been sparked by people spending more time at home as they’re feeling that their current living conditions have become a little cramped.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to alter the habits, preferences, and futures of everyone. As we face a future that includes more time spent at home, many of us are speculating on how to make that time well-spent. Whether potential upgrades include a home office, additional square footage, or sticking with a comfy spot on the couch, it’s important to remain positive and informed during this unprecedented time.