Working from home was already a trend, but has now been accelerated by COVID-19. The success of the work-from-home experiment during the pandemic has changed attitudes towards working from home and reimagined the traditional workplace. Salesforce recently announced a new work-from-anywhere model that will enable the majority of their employees to work remotely at least part-time, and Pinterest paid $90 million to break their lease. As we are coming out of the pandemic, more people are choosing to permanently work from home or go to a hybrid of working from home and going into an office.

The trend of shifting to a work-from-home environment will change the needs in multifamily housing design. As our homes become the place where we both live and work, the design of multifamily housing will need to adapt to accommodate both. Residential units, common areas, and design plans will all need to be reexamined and modified to accommodate the remote work trend.

Redefining the Unit Mix

The trend of working from home will impact the way owners market types of units offered. Rather than advertising a one-bedroom flex in which the living space could be divided into two parts to create another space or bedroom, it would now be more advantageous to market it as a one-bedroom plus study or a live/work unit. A two-bedroom unit could be reframed as a one-bedroom plus office and a three-bedroom unit could be reframed as a 2 bedroom plus office. Having a unit with a study or a home office is more popular today as people shift to permanently or part-time working from home. There will now be a demand for more flexibility in units and extra space to meet the need for a dedicated workspace.

Enhancing Unit Features

With a shift towards working from home, units will need features that support a home office environment.

  • With current plans, is there a way to build in a desk or have graphics to show where someone might put one in?
  • 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.

Upgrading Common Areas

Property amenities take on a new light post-pandemic because people are spending more time both living and working at home. Certain property amenities such as outdoor spaces (pool, dog parks, outdoor cabana) are in higher demand because people are taking work and lunch breaks at home or want to work outdoors. Could “passive” spaces like lawns be turned into “active” space by adding tables and chairs there?

Coworking spaces are a great addition to properties for tenants that work from home. These spaces give people a change of scenery and a place to do phone calls and meetings in privacy. Coworking space trends include small conference rooms for meetings, one person phone booth type spaces for calls and shifting from big common tables to smaller 2-3 person huddle spaces. Coworking spaces also give people a way to see other people and build community since they’re not going into an office every day and seeing co-workers face to face. Coworking spaces on a property could easily be absorbed or repositioned later on if it doesn’t work out.

Faster internet service was one of the top amenities requested among tenants before the pandemic and that request has grown exponentially with more people working from home. Tenants working from home need fast internet service to handle video conference calls, streaming videos and downloading files.

Knock-on Effects of Work from Home

More people working from home has effects on the property going on back of house. When people are spending more time at home during the day and eating all meals there, it produces more trash at the property. There will also be more packages delivered to the property if people are no longer sending packages to their office or are ordering more online. Common areas will get used more and experience more wear and tear with people there during the day. These are changes that affect the functionality of a property but are a bit hidden to the residents. Being aware of these potential changes will help property managers make operational design adjustments where needed.

Change is nothing new to the multifamily housing industry, as the market has been adapting to community needs for decades. The key to not just surviving current disruptions but rather thriving in this post-pandemic and work from home era, is flexibility and adapting and finding creative solutions.

Download our Post-COVID Multifamily Brochure for a look into new initiatives many properties are taking when it comes to their buildings, leasing offices and practices, amenity spaces, and more.



The information presented is based on JHP’s experience.