Working from home has emerged as a common option for some employees as many companies have adopted the hybrid model and new work from home trends have evolved.
A dedicated workplace is becoming more of a priority for employees, especially those who live with roommates or other family members in an apartment. An extra bedroom or a nook is now an essential feature when people consider moving to or renting a new apartment.
While some employees have returned to the office, other people work for companies that allow a hybrid schedule and only require going to the office two to three days a week. Creating an office atmosphere is critical, especially for people who work with teams or spend many hours of the day on phone calls or video meetings. Sitting at the dining table or in a corner of the living room is no longer a conducive work situation for some people who want a dedicated space.
Here are six work-from-home trends that renters are seeking for 2022.
1. Extra bedroom-nook
“Renters will continue to prioritize functional remote workspaces,” said Ericka Rios, co-founder and director of leasing for Downtown Apartment Company, a Chicago-based brokerage that matches renters with approximately 16,000 apartments in more than 200 properties across the Windy City.
Rios also expects renters to seek work from home-friendly floor plans offering bonus rooms or pocket office nooks.
“Working from home has become a permanent part of the landscape with Chicago renters and they are changing their living situations to accommodate it,” she said. “While some workers have gone back to the office, many are still working from home some or all of the time and need a more functional space for their home office. Many have upgraded to a larger living space with an additional room dedicated to a home office, while others are moving to buildings that offer a more traditional co-working space. The common thread is that nearly everyone has prioritized finding a functional WFH situation within their apartment community.”
Maria Abbe, a public relations executive who lives in Florida, said she recently moved into a two-bedroom apartment to have additional space.
“I wanted extra space, ample lighting and an open kitchen/living room so I don’t feel like I’m holed up in one room all day,” she said. “The palm trees help, too.”
2. Storage areas
Having enough storage in an apartment or in another part of the building is important to many people who prefer to spend their time outside and want to safely stash their sports or exercise equipment, such as a bicycle.
“Storage space in the common areas is critical these days,” said Teresa DeVos, executive vice president of operations at RKW Residential, a Charlotte, NC-based, third-party, multifamily management firm that oversees more than 30,000 apartments throughout the southeast region.
“How that space is designed and delivered depends on the demographics and geographic area the community is located in,” she said.
Secure storage located in a nearby location is a consideration
A community in a walkable, urban neighborhood requires significant space for bike storage. Renters working from home want to get their bikes out of the apartment and in a secure space.
“One of our communities located on the water has many kayaking enthusiasts as residents, so we had to allocate space for kayak storage,” DeVos said. Working from inside an apartment all day makes getting fresh air and exercise that much more important.”
3. Adequate natural light/more windows
When you spend all day working from home, having enough natural light emerges as a priority. Some people thrive in work environments with a lot of sunlight and are more productive.
“Natural light or a big window to place your workstation is vital for the workday when you live in New York City,” said Raj Nijjer, CMO of Refersion, a company that helps online shops track sales driven by promoters, influencers and affiliates. He prefers anything green or trees outside and likes having the ability to take a short walk on quiet streets for breaks or phone calls.
“Natural light is very beneficial to wellness, especially for those who work from home,” said Linda Kozloski, creative design director at Lendlease, an Australian-based integrated real estate and investment group.
The broad windows at Cascade, a 503-unit luxury apartment tower that recently opened in Chicago’s Lakeshore East neighborhood, and Porte, a 586-unit development in Chicago’s West Loop that opened during the pandemic, not only let in the “ample daylight that residents desire, they offer views of the skyline and nearby parks, allowing residents to take mini breaks as they work, moving their eyes from their screen to the view,” she said.
“The most common request we are getting from renters about working from home is having the ability to carve out a little area of the apartment as a space to work comfortably and with plenty of natural light or LED lighting,” DeVos said.
“We have taken the step of staging our model apartments to incorporate such spaces so prospective renters can visualize what working from home would look like,” she said.
Large windows help with productivity
Freda Moon, a travel editor at SFGate, said having a view like a big window overlooking a park and a location with restaurants and bars nearby with a lot of activity becomes more important. “I don’t want to feel cooped up,” she said.
Large windows with natural light and “a view of the city to feel like I was in a real office which helps with productivity,” said Justine D’Addio, a publicist for startups, who works from home in downtown San Francisco. “Having a larger than average balcony is great for work breaks and overlooking whatever ‘hustle & bustle’ is left here,” she said.
4. Noise control
Being able to manage the amount of noise from inside the apartment and from within the building is critical for people who need less noise to complete projects. WFH employees find this to be a necessity, especially if they’re living with a partner, children or roommates.
“There has always been high demand for sturdy, well-built communities, but now that more of our residents are working from home, they appreciate that our projects are designed to high acoustical standards,” Kozloski said. “The double-glazed glass in the façades of Porte and Cascade act as a noise-mitigation measure, ensuring that most external sounds are not detectable.”
Other people want a quiet respite from street noise or have no desire to hear their neighbors walking around their apartments. Michael Dehls, an IT professional living in Rutherford, NJ, said, “I think the ability to manage noise is extremely important, especially for couples. ”
His previous apartment had no doors between rooms, which made it tough when both he and his wife had to take conference calls simultaneously. Their new apartment has doors in most of the rooms.
“Being able to limit the amount of noise she heard from her neighbors was essential,” said Liz Froment, a Boston resident, who moved during the pandemic.
“A huge one for me was limiting neighbor noise,” she said. “I went from being surrounded on all sides to a top floor corner unit sharing only one small wall.”
5. Meeting or co-working room
Being able to work in a meeting room in the apartment’s lobby or having a silent booth for taking phone calls is a necessity. Others need a break from their roommates or family members.
“Building amenities like co-working areas with meeting rooms, private booths or dedicated Zoom rooms will be in high demand during the year ahead,” Rios said.
“Renters also want the ability to create such environments throughout the community, whether it is individual ‘phone booth’ private spaces to make calls and have virtual meetings or co-working areas for small groups to get projects done,” DeVos said. “If we can incorporate small workspaces into rooftops, especially in cities with great views, we make sure to do so.”
Change of scenery needed for WFH employees
“The amenity arms race has always included meeting spaces that allow residents a change of scenery so they can get work done outside of their unit,” Kozloski said. “Since the start of the pandemic, some buildings also offer work pods that are designed for one person to do head-down work.”
“At Cascade (which is 50 percent occupied) there have been nearly 600 reservations for the two reservable conference rooms since launching reservations on Oct. 1,” she said. “These spaces are open 24 hours a day and the most popular reservation time is between 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Cascade also added Stockwell vending machines, coffee service and a Print with Me printer in this same space as the reservable study areas as a convenience for those that work from home.”
“A top consideration for renters is how an apartment building provides working from home options,” said Jon Schneider, senior vice president for Fifield Cos., a Chicago-based boutique real estate developer that owns multifamily buildings in multiple markets, including two properties that opened during the pandemic in Chicago.
Their buildings are primarily located in or near city centers, which offers easy access for those who have returned to the office, but “estimates show about 50 to 60 percent of its residents are still working from home,” he said.
“We anticipate the flexibility to work from both an office and from home will continue to be a factor for the long term,” Schneider said. “Data suggests eight out of 10 renters expect to be working from home at least part of the time now and in the future,” he said.
Demand for co-working suites is rising
“Residents at their building in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago like having access to a full co-working suite with individual booths providing separation with a sense of openness, small offices offering a less distracting, more private space for phone calls and focused work and a more traditional conference room with a large table and wall-mounted monitor for group meetings or space to spread out,” Schneider said.
“Having this common space allows residents the flexibility to lease whatever floor plan best fits their budget and lifestyle because they know work-from-home space is covered,” he said. “The co-working spaces in our buildings like Logan Apartments and Westerly are consistently utilized and some residents even bring an entire computer set-up with monitors and PCs down to the co-working space on a daily basis. In terms of COVID protocols, we follow whatever the local government guidelines are for masks and social distancing.”
6. Outdoor space
Having access to outdoor space at the apartment complex, such as a balcony with adequate room for a table and chairs, a small garden and/or a dog park, is what some renters prefer.
Some renters find that having a dog park is just as important as having enough light or an extra room.
A dog park is what made the difference in choosing the last apartment for Angela Tague, a marketing writer and journalist who lives in Sioux City, IA.
“It was great for my dog to exercise and meet other dogs and got me outside more,” she said. “Win. Win.”
Access to outdoor areas is a priority
The Downtown Apartment Company in Chicago said 75 percent of its rental clients now want access to private outdoor space and they’re willing to pay a premium for it. Units with balconies tend to rent at 30 cents to 40 cents more per square foot. Rios also said that the No. 1 location for a balcony is off the bedroom, which can be hard to find as most units feature a balcony off of the living area.
“Another interesting insight is that balconies are leveling the playing field a bit between older Class A buildings and newer Class A+ buildings with tons of high-end amenity space, but no private balconies, ” Rios said.
“Balconies allow renters to work outside in temperate weather,” she said. “I’ve heard from the Porte leasing team that balcony units were the first to go because people wanted that second location to work from home.”
“Both Cascade and Porte have generous outdoor amenity decks that include, among other things, plenty of lounge furniture where renters can sit with a laptop to get work done. In addition, Cascade has a 32nd-floor lounge space overlooking Navy Pier that includes an adjacent study room for those who want great views and a quiet space.”
Work from home trends will continue
Many work-from-home trends will continue in 2022 as renters seek new living quarters. Some will continue their hybrid work models, while others will spend more time in the office.
Employees prefer to have a defined workspace, whether it’s another room or areas dedicated to relaxation or exercise, such as a balcony, small green space or a dog park. They want to spend time outdoors and away from their screens.