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How Decentralizing the Work Environment Is Affecting Interior Design Firms

behind interior design business of interior design business tips for interior designers how to grow a design business small business strategies Feb 08, 2022
Should interior designers decentralize work force

It’s no secret that there is a massive shift going on in the work environment these days, with many businesses now offering convenient work-from-home positions. As a result, employees are demanding more flexible work solutions, and interior design firms are no exception. The only catch is that the interior design field has historically been a collaborative work.

Many designers could complete their work in the extensive material libraries that their firm offered in the past. It allowed them to pick out different materials, putting everything on the table to see how they worked together. These designers may also have held collaborative meetings to discuss the various aspects of their latest design projects.

When the pandemic occurred, many interior design firms could not or did not offer remote work to their designers. In addition, there were few processes or technology systems to support this new model for the business.

Many designers are left wondering what the future holds for their careers and the firms they work for. Will flexible work arrangements take off so designers can begin working remotely like many other professionals?


Advantages of the Flex Time Model

Interior design is not the only field that has had to make shifts in their work environment. While many designers cite improved job satisfaction when they can work from their local coffee shop or home office, there are some other more tangible benefits, as well. This remote work model or hybrid model comes with several benefits for the employee, even if it is a bit of a struggle for the firm to sustain.

Leading the benefits list is improved productivity when working remotely. A recent study conducted in March 2021 found that six out of ten workers reported improved productivity when working outside the office. The overall consensus is that productivity was roughly seven percent higher than expected.

This model's other key advantages include a better work-life balance for employees and even location independence. Remote designing also opens up a designer’s schedule to provide better, more flexible services to their clients at different hours apart from the standard 9-to-5. This convenience is ideal for clients who may need evening or weekend appointments to work a commitment into their hectic schedule.

Interior design firms might want to jump on the bandwagon of this new decentralized model when they calculate their money savings, as well. With more designers on their own at home, they don’t necessarily need the prime office space that can house all workers simultaneously.

Even individual interior designers will notice a difference in their bottom line. According to a FlexJobs study, the average person saves roughly $4,000 annually by cutting out the commute.


Disadvantages of the Flex Time Model

The interior design field has always been collaborative in nature. Whether working with clients in the material library or consulting with other designers on a challenging project, a collaborative nature is inherent to the job. However, with the work environment shifting to a work-from-home model, it has the potential to destroy the very essence that makes so many designers more productive and successful with their clients.

The downside to remote work is that designers and design students feel disconnected from their peers more than ever. An increase in isolation is not ideal for the creative flow of many designers. Therefore, there need to be some significant shifts in how interior design firms deliver remote work to make collaboration a more active part of a designer’s day when working from home.

There are other disadvantages to this model as well, including:

  • Distractions in the home environment
  • Tendency to overwork due to a lack of boundaries around time
  • Unhealthy work-life balance
  • Disconnection from the workplace
  • Feelings of isolation

 A decentralized model appears to be the way of the future, but design firms should calculate the risks before making the shift.


Shifts from Interior Design Firms to Work Remotely

If an interior design firm wants to make its workforce location independent, it is crucial to modify its process. A remote work environment can boost business with the right pieces in play. And fortunately, there are more tools than ever before to aid in the collaboration process for companies intentional about connection.

As interior designers work from home, they can expand their services. A firm and its designers can offer services to anyone, anywhere in the world when allowing location-independent work. However, it is essential to develop some rules and guidelines for how this remote work will occur.

Getting a subscription to a video chat service such as Skype or Zoom is a must, but firms will also need to set boundaries around their interior designer’s role with clients. Some of the points to consider include:


  • Length of meetings with client
  • Frequency of communication with clients
  • When and how an interior designer can be reached (e.g., email, phone, video chat, etc.)
  • What to do if a client needs help after hours


Of course, working with clients is not the only thing interior design firms need to do better when utilizing a flextime or hybrid model. Many designers miss out on the material library when they do everything remotely. It will be essential for firms to establish and routinely manage a centralized library of their samples digitally so that designers can do their jobs effectively and efficiently.

Determining who has access to this library and securing it will be important. Interior design firms may need to increase their internet security measures to protect their online design resources. This will make it easier for the designers to digitally see the tools at their disposal without going to the office to lay actual samples out on a large table.

Both clients and designers will still have a similar experience of selecting the perfect materials for a project while enjoying the perks and conveniences of working from home. Going through materials using a digital library is also much more efficient than it otherwise would be (or used to be) in-store.


New Ways to Collaborate Among Teams

It will be crucial for interior design teams to remain connected even as they start to navigate this new decentralized business model. Working in isolation can be stressful, with 20 percent of remote workers claiming that loneliness is one of their top struggles.

In a naturally collaborative field like interior design, teams must emphasize remaining connected. Interior design firms can foster a sense of connection among their employees by scheduling meetings with their workers over Zoom or Skype a couple of times each week. These can take the place of weekly company meetings that might have once been held in a large conference room.

Of course, the designers themselves will need to be active participants in this challenge. If they would usually consult with another designer, they should prioritize meeting with them digitally as they might have done in the material library. This step can boost productivity and decrease the sense of loneliness and lack of collaboration many cite as issues.


Boosted Digital Presence

A website is one of the best tools for marketing services to potential clients. If an interior design firm truly wants to thrive in this modern age, it is time to update its online presence. Make your new remote services straightforward and easy to understand on the website. Include all pertinent details about what the firm offers and how it will render those services.

Social media management may come to the forefront (if it’s not there already) with this shift to decentralized work. This tool can amplify the company’s voice across the web. Whether your firm uses Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, clients are looking to social media for examples of current and past projects. However, many clients want to connect with their interior designers on another level.

 Make it a priority to post to social media consistently several times each week. This can even include creating YouTube or Instagram videos where designers can talk about trends and tips, giving clients a small taste of what they will receive when they sign up for services.


Changing Work Environment

The reality is that the interior design field can no longer ignore the shift to a more flexible work environment. It will require many changes to make this a profitable, productive, and healthy change for their interior designers. However, you should consider some of the many benefits of switching to a hybrid model, including the employee’s monetary savings, productivity improvement, and the potential for a better work-life balance.

Be sure to weigh the pros of a decentralized model against the potential risks to determine what services and opportunities designers might offer. Then, make moves to decrease the risk of isolation and promote a sense of community among workers.


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