Designers and stagers are finding ways to offer people who work from home more versatility than a dedicated workspace often provides.

Even though remote work remains commonplace, some real estate professionals and home stagers say the home office is losing its luster. Many home buyers are reclaiming this space for other nonwork uses.

The shunning of the home office is already taking root at The Astor, a recently restored luxury condo building in New York. Ash Staging, an interior design and home staging firm, recently chose to omit the home office when styling a model residence in the historic building. The firm transformed the fourth bedroom, traditionally a home office, into a flexible den with lounging space geared toward relaxation, entertainment or as a quiet nook for work. The sales team at the building believes this setup is resonating more with home buyers.

“We continue to see luxury buyers valuing flexibility and versatility in their space,” says Kyle Egan, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman who handles sales at The Astor. “So, this area was designed as a cozy lounge and media room with a desk nook that can serve as a work spot when needed. We’ve seen a very positive response to this setup as buyers continue to seek out layouts and floorplans that allow the freedom to customize their home to fit their lifestyle.”

Drawing from similar inspiration, the real estate and design team at 53 West 53, a Manhattan condo tower with 161 residences, also decided to exclude the home office in a recent home staging project. Instead, the sales team converted an office space into a game lounge complete with a fully stocked minibar and foosball table.

Quitting the Home Office

Recent studies have shown that at-home workers have flexibility when choosing where in the home to work. They’re no longer tethered to cords and outlets, and they don’t need to plug into a dedicated space each day. They can easily take a laptop to a kitchen island, living room sofa or even a neighborhood coffee shop.

About one-third of consumers who work remotely say they have a dedicated office space at home, according to the “State of Remote Work 2023,” a study conducted by social media technology firm Buffer. But of that group, 45% say their “home office” is located within another room, like a bedroom, kitchen or living room. Fourteen percent of remote workers say they prefer to move from room to room during their workday.

Some homeowners may prefer not to devote an entire space to a home office. They’re seeking an easily adaptable, flexible space, whether that’s for entertainment, lounging or even the occasional work, Egan says. “Homes became everything for people during the pandemic—their office, their movie theater, their bar and restaurant, their kids’ classroom and even more,” he adds. “Now that many people are back to working in offices, at least part of the time, they’re ready to ditch the home office and incorporate a flexible space that brings more fun and vibrancy back into the home.”

Not a Singular Space

Egan says study or work nooks may offer the same benefits as a larger home office. However, the goal remains the same: prioritizing design and comfort. “We recognize the modern buyer’s desire to blend functionality and aesthetics without compromising valuable space,” he says, noting this trend may accelerate in dense markets like New York.

Researchers have been studying the design of home office spaces and what works best for productivity. Many studies attribute a dedicated office space to a boost in productivity and avoiding constant distractions. But the studies also acknowledge that’s not possible  for everyone.

Georgia Southern University reviewed numerous studies that explored home office design during the pandemic. The review found the best results from a home office that prioritizes ergonomics and elements from nature and takes into account light and noise. Regardless of where that “office” is located and whether it has to serve multiple purposes, a few research-backed tips for setting up an at-home workspace include:

  • Pick a spot near natural daylight, preferably near a window. Otherwise, add ambient and task lighting.
  • Use headphones to block out noise, if needed, and portable screen dividers to block out visual distractions if you don’t have a dedicated workspace.
  • Incorporate nature or go outside for fresh air occasionally. Set up your workspace near greenery and plants—nature views have been tied to increased energy for remote workers.
  • Get moving: Studies suggest that remote workers make a point to stand up and move around for at least two minutes every 30 minutes during the workday to help avoid eye strain, back pain and headaches.
  • Add in a recreational spot. Researchers suggest having a lounging area in or near your office for a different type of seating than a desk chair for short breaks.

Egan says he believes more home shoppers will continue to prioritize multi-use spaces inside the home for work and play. As such, his company will continue to stage homes to showcase how spaces can be used in multiple ways. “We want to show the adaptability of the space and its ability to be integrated into all lifestyles—from gathering with friends to hosting a family movie night to taking a work call,” Egan says.