Home office space is now ‘very high on people’s list of requirements’

Aug 12, 2021, 5:02 AM | Updated: 10:56 am
home office...
(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Between remote learning and new work from home setups, one of the many lessons we learned in 2020 is that internet access is not optional.

President Joe Biden recently touted the parts of the trillion dollar Senate infrastructure bill that bolster broadband access.

“During the pandemic last year, we saw too many families forced to sit, literally sit in their vehicles in a fast food parking lot so their children could get on the internet they couldn’t afford and didn’t have access to at home,” Biden said. “This bill will deliver affordable high speed internet to every American, a necessity for the 21st century.”

Let’s hope, as KIRO Radio’s Aaron Mason said, that remote learning is the exception and not the rule this upcoming school year. But adults working from home might be here to stay in some industries.

Chief Economist at Windermere, Matthew Gardner, spoke about this shift.

“I think the rise of the suburbs is going to be a story which a lot of people are going to be reading about, I think, for many years because with work from home there is a requirement for space,” he said.

“It’s more important to have a home office or at least a dedicated Zoom space now than it ever was,” Gardner continued. “And that is something which is getting very high on people’s list of requirements if they are looking to buy a home.”

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If people don’t have a home office, Gardner says a lot of people are trying to create a den area or some alternative to using their dining room table as a workspace.

KIRO Radio’s Colleen O’Brien says she and her husband both work from home and are looking to add space.

“We don’t want to move from where we are, not that we could anyways because prices,” she said. “And I’m still waiting for those lumber prices to go down.”

“Yeah, it’s very, very tough,” Gardner recognized. “It’s just not lumber, it’s copper, aluminum, steel, even PVC pipe, which interestingly enough actually tracks oil prices. … So overall costs still are rising.”

“But there’s a lot more interest in remodeling. Why? Because we’ve been sat at home for the last year and a half, and what do we do when we look at anything too frequently? We critique it,” he added. “And so we’re looking around the house thinking, you know what, I’d like to get a bigger deck, or a den, or an extra room. And that means that the people in the remodeling industry, they are doing extraordinarily well right now.”

Colleen agrees that a home work space is important.

“In our home, we have one space that works as a home office and my husband is using it because he works more traditional hours, whereas I’m in the TV room on a card table. It’s a fine set up for what we do in radio; we’re very simple,” she said. “But eventually when the kids start waking up, they start interrupting things, so yeah, it’d be nice to have more dedicated space but, boy, we could barely afford an addition at this point.”

“What about taking a pay cut to work from home?,” Aaron asked.

“No, because I actually work more from home,” Colleen replied, and Chris Sullivan agreed.

“Those three hour afternoon Sound Transit meetings and legislative hearings that go on into the day have made it a little bit more,” he said.

Chris also pointed out an interesting trend shift where the discussion and talk a couple years ago when Sound Transit was really moving forward with its extension was about moving away from the suburbs.

“They were building those urban cores and those grids where you would live and work in kind of the same area, kind of like a South Lake Union area, and people were moving away from the suburbs,” he said. “Now it’s the exact opposite.”

“I’m also curious to see the pushback on that from companies,” Aaron said.

Aaron says in some places, companies are now asking what zip code you live in and won’t let you pay Iowa bills but work for a Seattle salary, as an example.

“Google, there’s this internal calculator they have in their internal system that will actually explain how much they will cut your pay if you choose to work remotely,” he said, which Colleen and Aaron agree is a dangerous precedent to set.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Home office space is now ‘very high on people’s list of requirements’