The Home Office Is Here to Stay
It’s become an enduring stable in our homes. It’s a place for stashing today’s ever present computer, a hub for our income producing activities and often just a refuge for escape. That’s increasingly what the home office has grown to mean in the American home.
In years past the den, office or library was a space more typically found in larger and luxury oriented homes. Not so today. Even as many trends gravitate to smaller homes, the demand for having that special dedicated space grows continually larger. Even in the smallest of studio apartments the office-like space takes on a life of its own in a dedicated corner and specially designed compact furniture that unfold to deliver a computer work station surrounded by nooks and crannies for organized storage.
Accommodating the need has been a proliferation of retailers and manufacturers, like internationally established IKEA, that offer specially designed home workplace furnishings and organizers. Why has this space in our homes become so important? First, we can look back to the early 1980s when the PC arrived on the scene. The explosion of the personal computer and its integration into our lifestyle created a need for a special niche in the home. We needed a place where the new communication tool was always accessible on demand.
The second factor contributing to the evolution has been the growing trend toward working from home. Jobs in many corporations have shifted away from traditional corporate headquarters to the more cost-saving option of having employees work at home full or part-time. Today approximately 30 million people work from a home office at least once a week and 42% of workers use their smartphones for work purposes at home. From 2005 to 2012 America’s telecommuting workforce increased by about 80%. This trend is undeniably accelerating.
Then there has been the marked increase in home-based businesses. Currently home base businesses account for half of all of our nation’s small businesses.
Still another factor boosting the demand for the home offices is the influence of approximately 65 million surviving Baby Boomers born from 1946 to 1964. As this large component of our overall population reached retirement age the drive for keeping active and supplementing income has resulted in the launching of many post-retirement second careers, small businesses and part-time home based work schedules.
The consequences of working at home has proven to be a positive experience for businesses and employees. Both sides reap the financial benefit of cost-savings linked to less travel expenses and reduced office overhead. Studies also indicate productivity increases upwards to 35% and higher levels of job satisfaction. Telework Research Network reports 47% who have the option to telework indicated they are “very satisfied” with their jobs compared to 27% who are office-bound.
Even the Internal Revenue Service supports the concept of home offices with its long-standing rule allowing homeowners to deduct expenses associated with this space. If you meet qualifications for the deduction as either a business operator or employee, you may deduct expenses associated with a home based office. This deduction may be calculated as a portion of total home expenses, including such items as mortgage interest, insurance and utilities, based on the percentage of your home devoted to business use, or in accordance with a simplified option of $5 per square foot of space to a maximum of 300 square feet.
As we look to the ongoing miniaturization of computers via tablets, the IPhone and Smartphones some of the requirements of what is dedicated to home office space will likely change. However, not likely to change in the foreseeable future will be the deeply entrenched home office as we know it today providing for a for a place to sit, work and organize reams of work related documents. It’s become an icon for our way of life in the 21st Century.
This blurring of the work and home relationship is a trend that will clearly continue to grow in the years ahead. As commonplace as a refrigerator in the kitchen the home office is here to stay.
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