Home office evolutionary theory

Over time teleworkers – and their home offices – evolve.

Consider Debra McKenzie. Today, her office is Spartan and simple, matched keenly to her tastes. But it didn’t start out that way. Seven years ago the spaced brimmed with files, papers and all the standard gun-metal-grey gear of the corporate office.

But as her employer, LexisNexis, has gone increasingly paperless, so too has McKenzie. She’s dumped her paper file cabinets in favour of saving computer files on the corporate server. Atop her desk are a 15-inch monitor and a docking station for her Dell laptop.

Her desk? A simple wooden table with a metal base and no drawers. The chair is a functional, yet unassuming ergonomic design from Herman Miller. Colourful art and photos taken on family trips adorn the walls. A skylight brightens her space, and French double doors lead out to a deck that overlooks woods and a creek.

With her vision of simplicity, McKenzie’s on to something, says Greg Parsons, president of Herman Miller Red, the small business and home office division of the furniture company.

“When you first start, you go for function, not aesthetics. You’re concerned about being productive and making sure people back at the office know you’re working,” says McKenzie, a senior director of corporate services at the Dayton, Ohio, company. “As you spend more time in the office, you realize you can make it more comfortable and that can help you be more productive.”

Many first-time teleworkers want furniture that resembles that of the corporate office. With files to be carried or kept at home, and large desks to accommodate their paperwork, in-baskets and other corporate accoutrements, the familiarity breeds comfort and contentment.

Then over time, an interesting thing happens, Parsons says. Function and aesthetics grow closer. People begin spending their own money for office furniture and d