hy Are Home Offices Losing Popularity? Is this the Death of the Home Office?

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Traditional home office with wooden walls and hardwood flooring together with a rug and freestanding shelf.This article came together entirely by accident.  While putting together the spectacular luxury home offices gallery, I did some research about the trending patterns of home offices and related online searches.

What I found was astonishing.  I expected that “home office” would be sky-rocketing upwards in popularity over the last 10 years.  What I found was the opposite.  “Home Office” is actually trending downward.

I have a decent home office in our walk-out basement.  It’s not luxurious, but it’s sizeable and works well for me.  We know many people with home offices; some big and some small.  With all the talk of working from home and explosive growth in computers in the home, it seems reasonable that home offices would still be growing in popularity.

And then it occurred to me that there are logical reasons for the downward trend in home offices (based on online search volume in Google).

“Home Office” Trend Chart

Here’s the “home office” trending chart since 2004:

When I saw that chart, I asked myself, what’s going on?

After thinking about it and doing research, here are the reasons as I can see them.

Fewer people don’t buy desktop computers for the home

Desktop computers, which requires a desk and presumably a home office are no longer necessary for computing.  Most people have migrated to laptops, tablets and mobile phones.  Yes, mobile phones with access to the internet can pretty much handle all household computing needs.

Here’s the “desktop computer” trend chart:

The downward trend of the desktop computer echoes the downward trend of home office.  Check it out:

What does searching for fewer desktop computers being bought have to do with the demise of the home office?

Now that people use laptops and tablets for computing, they don’t need a desk. They can compute in any room. Our household is an excellent example. My wife and I each have an iPad and iPhone. We never go into the office for household computing except to print something.

I’m sure we’re not alone. In fact, the data demonstrates we’re not alone. More and more people lounge on sofas with tablets and mobile phones or laptops to compute, whether it’s to surf the Web, pay bills, handle online banking, etc.

Mobile Devices Also Trending Downward… What?

The downward trend in desktop computers makes sense. However, what’s also interesting is that “laptop”, “tablet” and “Mobile phone” terms spiked a few years ago but are now in a downward trend. Check out the charts.

“Laptop” trend chart

“Tablet” trend chart

“Mobile phone”

Device and Computer Statistics for US Households

  • 68% of USA adults have a smart phone
  • 45% of USA adults have a tablet
  • 78% of USA adults under 30 own a laptop (compared to 88% in 2010)
  • 86% of adults aged 18 to 29 have a smart phone (saturation)
  • 80% of adults owned a desktop or laptop computer in 2012, now it’s 73% (tablets and mobile phones replacing traditional computers)

Source: PewInternet.org

Why are laptop, tablet and mobile phone terms trending downward or are flat when high percentages of households own these devices?

The only explanation I can come up with is that the markets for laptops, tablets and mobile phones in the USA are approaching saturation. Many people have all these devices and so we don’t search for them anymore. Also, most people don’t upgrade with every update. We hang on to devices and laptops for a few years. When we do update or upgrade, we know what we’re going to get so we don’t have to do research like we all did a few years ago when the market was young.

We’re Wireless

61% of US households have WiFi.  Before wireless internet access, we needed to wire in which was done in home offices.  Now that pretty much everything is wireless, including access to printers, we don’t need to use a computer wired to the wall.  We can compute anywhere.  This dovetails with the growing use of mobile phones and tablets which never would have exploded had wireless internet access not been available.

Working from home never exploded as expected

While 3.9 million (2.9%) of US workers telecommute part or full time, that’s not the explosion in working from home many expected with the advent of computers and internet years ago.

Here are the “work from home” and “telecommute” trend charts:

Sure, many people do work from home and it is growing, but there was chatter 10 to 20 years ago with the explosive growth of the internet that a huge percentage of the workforce would be working from home. It made sense – companies would conceivably save millions of dollars in office space and employees would much prefer avoiding a commute and the convenience of working at home.

However, the majority of office workers still head to an office. The whole telecommuting thing never took off like some people expected. The reasons for this are many.  In fact, many companies are ending telecommuting arrangements.

The great migration home office conversion rush is done?

Another possible reason that “home office” as a search term is trending downward is that many homeowners have already created a home office in their home many years ago with the advent of the desktop computer in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

Moreover, new homes, townhomes and condos come with home offices included so new homeowners do not need to build them or convert a room into a home office.

Is the home office dead?

Despite the downward trend via Google search, the home office is not dead.  Many homes have one (although I couldn’t find precise statistics).  Nevertheless, the importance of the home office is less so with the growth in mobile devices.

Maybe in 20 years we’ll all convert our home offices back to bedrooms.





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