US & Global Economic Impact Analysis and Forecasts

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Back to the Office…Productivity Needs & Desire for Privacy in the Office Clashing With the Return-to-Office Perks?

Now that more people are used to the privacy of working from home, what adjustments are workers asking for as they return to the office?

Love them or hate them, but after decades of expansive open-concept designs at home and at work, walls are back. In this case, cubicles! Cubicles and semi-private seating where desks are separated by low partitions are making a comeback. Design trends aren’t necessarily toward the “cube farms” of the ‘80s and ‘90s, but something in between that and the “open office” designs with few or no walls. In this modern version, private spaces (cubicles and phone rooms) exist alongside of semi-private spaces (low walls or desks tucked into corners) and open spaces intended for collaboration.

And why do they want to close doors or “hide” from colleagues? Returning to the office also means returning to chatty colleagues, in-office client visits, and noise from perks such as video games and new coffee and snack stations, which might make heads-down, high concentration work more difficult. In that vein, more employees are looking for ways to signal to colleagues when they are available for questions and collaboration (the benefit of in-office work) and when they are not. Doors and walls can help, but some get more creative with color-coded lights, posted signs, or other indicators. Others – including me – use headphones, whether with music and noise cancelling engaged or not, to signal openness to conversations.

Freedonia analysts continue to watch factors such as the employee preferences, changes in design trends, commercial real estate activity and others to see how the office of the future will affect where and how we work.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, especially coverage in our construction segment and additional titles such as Work-From-Home Consumer Insights, and Freedonia Focus reports such as Office Furniture: United States, Real Estate: United States, and Office Construction: United States. Additional related reports include Office Coffee Service from our sister publisher Packaged Facts. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.