How Remote Work Has Changed Multifamily Design

March 21, 2024

Updated March 21, 2024
Originally published May 21, 2021

Working from home was already a growing trend, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated its adoption. In some industries, the success of remote work during the pandemic has reshaped attitudes toward traditional office environments, leading to significant changes in multifamily housing design. While remote work offers flexibility, post-COVID developments like Salesforce’s shift back to hybrid schedules for most employees highlight the evolving nature of work arrangements. As more individuals opt for permanent or hybrid work-from-home setups, the design of multifamily housing must adapt to meet the needs of residents who now live and work (at least part-time) in the same space.

Redefining the Unit Mix

The trend of working from home has influenced the way multifamily housing units are marketed and designed. Rather than promoting flexible layouts, such as one-bedroom units with the potential for additional spaces, developers are now emphasizing the importance of dedicated home office areas. Units previously marketed as one-bedroom flex spaces are now positioned as one-bedroom plus study or live/work units, catering to the increasing demand for flexible workspaces within residential environments. This shift reflects the growing need for residents to have designated areas for remote work activities.

Enhanced Unit Features

With the rise of remote work, multifamily housing units now aim to incorporate features that support a home office environment. Some design changes being considered include:

  • Is there a way to build in a desk or have graphics to show where someone might place one?
  • Power connections to the desk wall should be added as an easy accommodation.
  • Is there the potential to add a data connection on the balcony or patio so tenants can work outside?
  • To create lighting more conducive for working, task lighting could be installed above the study area of units, and fixtures such as pendant lights or under-cabinet desk lighting could be added.
  • Is there the potential to create better soundproofing in units to reduce background noise during work calls and videos? With an increase in remote workers, it’s important to build in supportive work-from-home features in multi-housing design plans and add these features to existing properties.

Upgraded Common Areas

Property amenities have also evolved to accommodate residents’ new lifestyles. Outdoor spaces, including pools and dog parks, experience higher demand as residents seek alternative work environments and spaces for relaxation during breaks. Coworking spaces have emerged as valuable additions to multifamily properties, providing residents with dedicated areas for work-related activities and community-building opportunities. These spaces often feature small conference rooms, private phone booths, and adaptable workstations tailored to the needs of remote workers.

Knock-on Effects of Work from Home

The shift to remote and hybrid work has implications beyond individual units and common areas, impacting the operational aspects of multifamily properties. Increased time spent at home during the day has led to higher volumes of trash and package deliveries, necessitating adjustments in property management strategies. Common areas may experience greater wear and tear as residents utilize these spaces for work and leisure activities throughout the day. Property managers must remain attentive to these changes and adapt operational procedures accordingly to maintain the functionality and appeal of multifamily properties in the remote work era.

In Closing

As remote and hybrid work continues to shape the way we live and work, multifamily housing designs must evolve to meet the needs of residents in a post-pandemic world. Flexibility and adaptability will be key as developers and designers navigate the changing landscape of remote work and its impact on residential environments. By redefining unit mixes, enhancing unit features, upgrading common areas, and addressing operational challenges, multifamily properties can remain attractive and relevant in the era of remote work.

Curious about how remote and hybrid work has influenced multifamily design? Reach out to our team at JHP for insights and expertise on navigating the evolving landscape of residential development in the remote work era. Download our Post-COVID Multifamily Brochure to learn more about innovative initiatives shaping the future of multifamily housing design.