In a victory for knowledge workers, it appears that hybrid work arrangements are increasing—and may be here to stay. But as many people return to the office—or now find themselves juggling two very different types of workdays, they’re finding themselves with new daily challenges at home.
From an employee standpoint, hybrid work arrangements offer the best of both worlds. The option to work from the comfort of home some days, but also have the opportunity to collaborate in-person on other days. Many workers are saying yes, please.
But the return to the office itself—in addition to the fluidity that hybrid work arrangements offer—can be difficult to adjust to. So many parts of our daily routines are different when we’re working from home vs when we’re going into the office, especially when it comes to meal prep, cooking and eating.
Simply put: It’s an area ripe for opportunity for those selling and making home and housewares products.
“People crave routine,” says Joe Derochowski, vice president and home industry advisor for Circana (formerly The NPD Group). “But how do you create routine for breakfast, lunch and dinner on days you go into the office and days you don’t? Consumers are trying to sort it out, and they’re looking for inspiration.”
Of global knowledge workers, 39% will work hybrid by the end of 2023 (up from 37% in 2022), according to data just released from Gartner, Inc. In the U.S., this trend will be even more pronounced, with 51% of knowledge workers projected to be hybrid.
It’s important to note that remote and hybrid work arrangements have increased in every country since 2019, and hybrid appears to be trending now over fully remote options, according to Gartner.
But there are different attitudes and realities in different countries and parts of the world. For example, the number of fully remote and hybrid knowledge workers in the U.S. is projected to be 71% by the end of 2023. That percentage is expected to be 67% in the U.K., 49% in Germany and 29% in Japan.
Addressing the Need
The tension hybrid workers are feeling right now comes from looking to establish a rhythm on their different types of days, especially when it comes to breakfast, lunch and dinner. What’s more, time is even more of a hot commodity, as is convenience.
When it comes to time, the 2023 IHA Market Watch survey found that consumers who are most driven by time concerns are those 25-44-years-old. This tends to be the age group that is juggling busy work schedules, kids’ activities and possibly caring for aging parents.
“There are so many challenges right now related to time that are ripe for smart home innovation,” says Derochowski.
While those on the supplier side focus on that part of the equation, retailers may want to consider enhancing their assortment with items that speak to time and convenience. Consider the Rise by Dash Egg Bite Maker, which allows office workers a quick and easy way to prepare a protein-packed breakfast for on the go. For meals at the end of the day, an attractive new option is the Multo smart cooking vessel from Cooking Pal. It performs 15 different cooking functions including cleaning.
How to make packing an adult-friendly lunch easy and efficient? Those looking for a flexible, all-in-one solution will appreciate items like the Planetbox Leakproof Lunch (which includes a removable, microwave-safe tray) and the Harvest Bowl from Bindle Bottle (which includes multiple leak-proof compartments for dressing, dry toppings or other ingredients).
Inspiration is also a big part of the equation. Recipes for quick and tasty weeknight meals will be much appreciated, as will tips and creative hacks for streamlining routines on different days.
Retailers may want to consider marketing and merchandising that speaks to consumers’ home challenges due to hybrid work, as well as any services that make shopping, pick-up or delivery faster or more convenient.
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