When it comes to workplace trends, do you seek clear forecasts about the future? Don’t try to reach clarity by poring over the endless surveys, studies and analyses focused on whether or not work from home (WHF) is here to stay.

Just when you feel one prediction has the future 100% correctly pegged, along comes another prognostication to upend the earlier report’s findings.

A recent study by JDP seems to suggest there would be little problem with Americans working from home forever. Research into the sentiments of 2,000 respondents found two-thirds convinced their productivity is as good or better when working from home. A huge majority (92%) believed their boss trusts them when working from home.

On the other hand, a nearly concurrent Digital.com study found lack of WFH experience, coupled with anxiety related to the pandemic, have left some workers less productive when toiling from their home offices. A lack of collaboration, interference from streaming media and TV and reduced mental stimuli led the list of productivity snuffers.

For its part, a Gensler study found just one in eight respondents (12%) desired permanent work-from-home confinement.

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That finding appears to back what’s long been known about humans: We’re social beings whose health and longevity rests on in-person contact.

Middle ground

What does seem to be taking shape is the notion that while working from an office will not disappear in a post-pandemic world, working from home won’t either. In the Gensler study, 44% of respondents preferred no work days from home. Another 26% wanted one or two days in their home office, while 18% thought three or four days at home would be just fine.

That suggests the future may see some sort of accommodation among office staffs, with bosses and colleagues deferring to some employees’ wishes for remote work on some work days. The dividend paid out by this transition to greater flexibility could eventually be a healthier work-life balance for office teams than previously thought possible.

And just as greater flexibility may be prioritized in how future work is split between home and office, flexibility is also being emphasized by designers and manufacturers focused on WFH furnishings. When people are not working away in the office, they will need home office furnishings and equipment flexible enough to turn home interiors of any size or layout into a work space where they can be highly productive and efficient.

Office leads

That evolution comes in the wake of an earlier one years ago in corporate offices. There, technology helped make teams more fluid. Staff were able to shift from their desks to collaborative spaces and social settings, and yet remain just as efficient as before. In turn, heightened mobility often increased engagement, improved performance and fostered greater wellness.

Lessons learned in designing offices also apply to furnishings designed for WFH. So says Steve Delfino, vice president of corporate marketing and product management with Ontario-based office furniture manufacturer Teknion.

“In recent years, active design has helped to improve well-being in the office. We need to stand up, stretch, and move around at home as well,” he says. “In the office, we get up to go to a meeting, step out for lunch or walk across the office to chat with a coworker. At home, we may have to be reminded to take a break, make a cup of tea or go outside for a moment.”

Flexibility is the key to a number Teknion solutions for home workers. Those workers without dedicated workspace can bring flexibility into their lives by using a comfortable dining room chair at a height adjustable table, or moving a laptop stand to the living room sofa.

In dedicated home work spaces, a mix of height-adjustable surfaces enable movement between sitting and standing, and deliver the health benefits resulting from those moves. And in flex-space, multi-functional modular products like Teknion’s Bene Box – including desks, tables, shelves, stools and storage – let residents create reconfigurable settings enabling work from home during some day parts, and standard home at others times of day.

Whether Americans are working from employers’ offices or their homes in the future, the key to productive, healthy and comfortable work space will be flexibility.Whether Americans are working from employers’ offices or their homes in the future, the key to productive, healthy and comfortable work space will be flexibility.

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