Until a year ago, the topic of working from home was still associated with a great deal of scepticism in many professional fields. Within a few months, however, the proportion of employees working from home occasionally or exclusively has increased from 40% to 60%. Now, a year into learning about this new phenomenon,
we take a look into the future, together with trend researcher Oona Horx-Strathern: She has focused on trends in the areas of living, construction and architecture for more than 25 years. In the Home Report series of the Zukunftsinstitut, she now takes a look at how we will be living in future.
Oona Horx-Strathern has a clear answer to this: “The Hoffice is here to stay. The way we work will never be the same again – just like other aspects of our lives won’t. So the time has come to develop smart solutions and space-usage concepts that pave the way to the new normal.”
Oona Horx-Strathern sees a great opportunity in this journey. The term “Hoffice” coined by her is a light-hearted allusion to “Hoffnung”, the German word for “hope”. Because the injection of work into our home environment will take the relationship we have with our homes to a new level. As Third Places like restaurants and cultural venues have been closed, everything has revolved around our own four walls in the past months. “Now, more than ever before, being at home means being comfortable and thus describes not only a physical location but also a lifestyle”, explains the expert.
Hoffice and Hoffice are not always the same: The term “Hoffice” was already current in the media before the pandemic. It referred to a new working concept from Sweden, where you invite a friend or strangers to work with you in your own home. This model never took hold in Germany at the time. Today, we understand “Hoffice” to mean something completely different: Oona Horx-Strathern uses it to describe a new lifestyle that has emerged as a result of the fusion of home and office due to Covid. Three ideas are key if we want to turn the home office from a necessity into a place of well-being:
Despite the fact that they save time and have greater autonomy, only 56% of employees find working at home more enjoyable than working in an office, according to the findings of a study conducted in May 2020. If we want to change this, we need to rethink: Up until now, offices were pure business spaces. But during the crisis they turned into living spaces. When it comes to unlocking our potential and thinking creatively, our surroundings play a crucial role. As Dostoyevsky put it, “Beauty will save the world.” Oona Horx Strathern agrees: “The Hoffice has given us newfound freedom to adapt our workplace to suit our personal style of living. We now need to capitalise on this and create an environment that we enjoy working in.” We need to ensure the lighting is good. We also need to understand that art prints or special pieces of furniture can give space a personal touch.
The key term when it comes to the “Hoffice” is flexibility. A third of homeworkers under 30 years of age do not work in a designated work space, but constantly move between the kitchen table and the sofa. But there is more to flexibility: “Adapting spaces for the purposes they’re meant to fulfil allows us to respond more quickly to new challenges”, explains Horx-Strathern. “Furnishings should be all about versatility; ideally, the interior design should be suitable for both home and office. It is not really necessary to have a separate work space.” On the other hand, using the bedroom as an office may not be ideal with the risk of seeing the desk as the last thing before drifting off to sleep. But a simple trick can sort this out: Room dividers, shelves or curtains are elegant solutions for separating the two areas – not only from a spatial point of view, but also from a mental perspective.
If work is encroaching more and more into your private life, it goes beyond spatial flexibility. We also need to adapt mentally. Oona Horx-Strathern has experienced this first-hand: During the Covid pandemic, she shared the living area and work space with a three-generation household. Whoever happened to be in a meeting got the quietest work space – everybody else had to improvise and sometimes even ended up next to the washing machine. During the past months she has therefore learnt one thing in particular: “The Hoffice can only work if we achieve the right combination of professional and family life: We need a work-life-family balance. “The key to this is communication – both as regards who needs what space, but also about topics that are not at all related to work and office. Two other 2021 living trends offer a possible solution: “You could upgrade the balcony or redesign the living area using hotel rooms as an inspiration: ‘Romancing the Balcony’ and ‘Home Suite Home’ ensure an outdoor and holiday feeling at home, creating a counterbalance to work”, recommends Horx-Strathern.
You can also include relaxation times in your work day. For example, you can adapt everyday office routines at home: Instead of a chat in the office kitchen, you can communicate via video
conference from home while enjoying a cup of tea. Little relaxation sessions like these provide energy for the work day ahead and generate proximity to colleagues – despite the physical distance.
> STRONG ASSAM: Invigorating Assam tea boasts loads of caffeine and its malty, spicy flavour is sure to bring a change of pace into your home office.
> DAILY MATE: All good things come in threes ... The trio comprising mate, guarana and green tea guarantees an energised start to the day and will definitely help conquer that afternoon slump.
> THE CAMOMILE: Be it after a stressful work day or before an important meeting, THE CAMOMILE delivers new impetus thanks to its revitalising aroma.
> EASY DREAMER: Many people working from home suffer from sleep problems as a result of regularly working on weekends or at night. EASY DREAMER is a blend of fennel, calming valerian and soothing melissa, making it the perfect companion for a relaxed evening or the last few minutes of reading before going to sleep.
Source header picture:
Zukunftsinstitut Horx GmbH | Photo: Klaus Vyhnalek
forsa (2020): Findings from a survey on working in a home office during the Covid lockdown among people working from home, conducted on behalf of the IBA (German Industrial Association of Office and Work Environment), April 2020 – downloaded on 2/3/2020 from https://iba.online/arbeitsplatz-buero/studynet/a/iba-umfrage_corona/