The Rise of 'Resimercial' - Where Two Worlds Collide


The office is becoming a place where residential and commercial design collide, but it somehow works. In the first of our series on Future Workspaces, we investigate the origins of this new term and look at the challenges and opportunities it presents for businesses.

Resimercial is an office design term which surfaced last year. It’s anything from furniture to layouts and architecture which blend residential with commercial design. It’s a term which encompasses social spaces, community-focused design, agile workspaces and the provision of choice over where staff work, socialise and relax.

Productivity, of course, is the driver, through the aims of energising and inspiring staff, and encouraging connection, collaboration and creativity.

According to Helen Booker, marketing manager at UK furniture provider, Frövi: “Resimercial is a reflection of the blurred lines between homeworking and flexible working and how the office has become more agile – where people are working from a variety of locations, from hot-desks to sofas, sit-stand desks, and collaborative ‘huts’ and ‘caves,’ to longer canteen tables that double up as multiple hot desk spots around the office. This very traditional notion of ‘here’s your desk, here’s a task chair, this is where you sit every day’ has completely gone.” Based in The Cotswolds, with a showroom in London, Frövi specialises in contemporary furniture for social spaces within corporate and community environments.

At the heart of this trend lies the disruptive startup culture, a record-breaking rise in homeworkers and growth of the UK freelance economy.

What does the future of workspace look like? Take a look at our insightful  eBook.

Homeworkers hit record levels

In the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of homeworkers has hit record levels. In the first quarter of 2014, there were 4.2m homeworkers (14% of those in work), a number, we believe, has increased further since this research. ONS adds: “this was the highest rate of home working since comparable records began in 1998.” The majority of these homeworkers (2.7m) used their home as a base but also worked in different places, with the remainder (1.5m) working exclusively from offices or studios on their home grounds. The trend for homeworking is mirrored in the US. According to CNN Money, the number of Americans working from home jumped by 41% in the decade to 2012.

In the UK, figures from the ONS show that self-employment rose by 21% from 2008 to 2015, and that it’s an extension of a trend which started in 2000. This trend, says the ONS, is “among the defining characteristics of the UK’s economic recovery.” According to the Association of Independent Professionals and Self Employed (IPSE), in a report from February 2017,the number of freelancers in the UK grew by almost half (43%) between 2008 and 2016, with two million UK freelancers contributing £119bn to the national economy. The reason for the increase in freelancers is partly down to new generations of workers with new habits and ideas; who are accustomed to working from everywhere but the office.

New habits

Workplace author and speaker, Dan Schawbel, writes in Forbes that millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025, and they have vastly differing working habits to previous generations like Baby Boomers and Generation X. “There is no doubt that millennials will redefine ‘face-time’ as more work from home each year and fewer want to pick up the phone or go into an office,” he says.

Work, home and the ‘third place’

In the battle for talent against a backdrop of a national skills shortage, it makes sense for employers to create a warm and welcoming environment where workers feel comfortable; a place they want to come to work in, rather than a place they have to be. Where else do we feel more comfortable than at home?

Resimercial also emulates that “third place” between work and home, to use a phrase coined by sociologist, Ray Oldenburg in his book, The Great Good Place. By mimicking the atmosphere of the home environment and the cafe culture, employers show they understand their staff have a life outside of the office, and they’re prepared to compromise for them. That’s a powerful plus-point for an employer.

the rise of resimercial

Evidence of the resimercial trend spread throughout last year’s (2017) annual NeoCon furniture trade show in Chicago, according to Michigan’s online news magazine,MiBiz. “The show floor was full of products in warm pastel colours, as well as vibrant upholstery and carpeting,” it says. “It also featured lounge furniture and conference tables that looked more fitting for a dining room than a corporate boardroom.”

For furniture provider, Frövi, the resimercial term is a new one, but it perfectly fits the design they’re doing right now which, Helen admits, is quite different to what they’ve done before. “It’s something we picked up as we were trying to explain our latest designs, which have a more luxurious feel. They’re specifically designed for commercial office environments but they have such a residential feel that resimercial seemed to fit the bill. It’s a term to try to explain how everything fits together. Everyone we’ve spoken to about it seems to get it.

“Our customers are finding that, when they design their office space, it’s less about the desking and more about collaboration spaces and agile locations. The more workspace design has moved in that direction (which has only been in the last couple of years) the more the resimercial term has grown. Every design we see now, people are asking, ‘how can we create a more agile, collaborative, flexible working space?’”

 A fine line

Resimercial design is a direct response to the increased flexibility afforded by digital technology and the move towards more mobile workforces. But the resulting proliferation of varied workstations presents two major challenges for HR. One: home furniture is designed for lounging, not working. If it feels too much like home, could it have a negative effect on people’s attitude and productivity? Two: how would you conduct a workstation assessment if no-one has a workstation?

This is where workspace designers are becoming more effective business partners than ever. Long gone are the days when you’d just buy some furniture and have it installed in your office. An office refit is less transactional these days. It has to be. There needs to be consultation with everyone involved (so they’re productive and happy), some deep brand thinking (so the design reflects who and what they want to project) and as much usage data as you can gather, so it’s an informed, cost-effective investment.

“It’s a fine line,” says Helen. “There’s definitely a balance needed there. Again, it’s being mindful of all the things your staff require. You need zones for every type of work and working style. You need all those different areas and furniture which include, for example, someone working at a task for a long period (so you need proper task chairs, proper desks, sit-stand desks). It’s having the versatility in the space that gives everyone those options.

“Our customers, when they’re designing workspace, they’re thinking about all those things. It’s much more about the people than the office space. Again, it’s the right environment, it’s not going to suit every office. It’s common sense. What’s most important is that your office is designed around your staff needs and the needs of your company, not just around your space.

Make this office a house

One company which has taken this home-influenced design to the extreme, and for obvious reasons, is Zoopla Property Group (ZPG), which owns the digital platforms, Zoopla, uSwitch and PrimeLocation. Its London Bridge offices were designed “to incorporate all the characteristics of a home over three floors of ‘living space,’” it says, with living, dining room, wine cellar, conservatory, library, terrace and even a tree house. According to employee reviews on jobs and recruitment website, Glassdoor, ZPG’s 45,000-sqft London Bridge offices are “out of this world” and include games rooms, gym, showers, free breakfast and lots of other amenities and perks.

Okay, this home-inspired design reflects ZPG’s brand and service. It makes sense from a branding point of view. But is it also a deliberate effort to make staff feel like they’re working from home? If it is, what can we learn from this? Explore the future of workspaces with our informative eBook

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