22 November, 2020

Living the Dream?

Are you reading this from a closet? Or maybe from the couch? If so, you’re not alone. So many people are now working from home that we decided to offer a new spin on our annual tradition. This year’s holiday wish list full of ideas to help you make the most of working outside the office. Scroll on down to this month’s “On Our Minds” for our best work-from-anywhere picks.

On our minds

This week, families all around the country will sit down to participate in what has become an American tradition: shopping while they wait for the mashed potatoes to be ready (or whatever the favorite side may be in your neck of the woods). No judgement here! One of our favorite annual traditions is sending out holiday gift recommendations.

This year, our list has a twist. The massive shift to telework that has transpired this year has meant that a lot of people are making do with makeshift offices in kitchens, closets, and garages. They’re arguing with remote support agents that are not even human. In short, it hasn’t all been smooth.

To help, we asked members of the PLASTARC team to share what’s on their holiday wish list. We’ve ended up with a whole pile of clever gift ideas on our breakfast-bar-turned-stand-up desk.

Dream Big!

Since telework is here to stay for many, consider a big-ticket purchase that will improve the experience for years to come.

For those feeling a little cooped up—and these days, who isn’t?!—consider moving the work perch to a transparent bubble tent that offers both shelter from the elements and wraparound outdoor views. Research has shown that seeing nature is good for both mood and performance, and it’s also helpful to have a destination outside of the home...even if that’s in the front yard.

Speaking of biophilia, why not add some literal life to the workplace? Equip the home office with a bioreactor to grow spirulina, or kick off your New Year's resolution by growing your own vegetables. Refresh the air while also growing some lunch!

People sharing space with a house full of kids, pets or a partner who is also teleworking might love the respite of a home phone booth like these from ROOM, or from newcomer Yourspace. Step into an oasis of quiet and calm to take a call or just take a breath.

Tired? Boom Towns. Wired? Zoom Towns! Consider the gift of a new view. Urbanites yearning for some wide open spaces can move to one of the small towns that have gotten hip to the potential of telework, or hit them all in a DWR Airstream. Many such towns are located near the jewels of our national parks systems in the West. As we experienced during our time working with the folks at Grand Teton National Park, it’s tough to beat an office surrounded by natural beauty—urban or earthly.

Quality of Work-Life

Thriftier shoppers might be surprised how much better home workspaces can be improved with a relatively small investment. For example, the perfect gift might be a bucket of paint. The color of a wall is more influential than you might think, and can help ease the anxiety of quarantine.

When we were collaborating with west elm on their Workspace product line, we saw up close just how many people were working with furniture or tools that didn’t really meet their needs. Don’t let that be the case at home. If something in your work area is driving you nuts—anything from a squeaky door to an ugly rug—now is the time to fix it, even if that requires a bit of home office hacking.

Some people are at their best at the conference table whiteboard—there are some things that just can’t be conveyed with words alone. Enable the inner doodler with a drawing tablet like these from Wacom to make the remote experience more visual and keep the ideas flowing freely.

The bane of any teleworker’s meeting experience? Poor-quality audio. Consider upgrading to a great USB microphone like this one by Blue. When it comes to video, a big part of the magic is great lighting. You might like these stylish fixtures from Established and Sons, or shop MOMA for a modern twist on the classic Angelpoise, which will also (help you) look great on camera.

Stocking Stuffers, Books and Fun

Know someone with a messy desk? Or a messy whatever-they’re-using-as-a-desk? Check out this cool line of peripheral cables that are designed to stay put and resist tangling.

Snuggle up with some new books this winter. Pop-culture sensation Marie Kondo, who gained notoriety for the system she developed to help people organize their homes, has a new book focused on work. It features a section dedicated to working at home. As designers, we can’t help but love 99% Invisible City a book full of interesting insights into the design that makes urban environments work. And of course, who doesn’t love this modern classic full of humorous/horrifying text message exchanges between parents and children.

Most of us are near our saturation points for screen time, so when it comes to gifts for the family, why not go old school? Classic toys like dolls, trucks, and Lincoln Logs are making a comeback. Or go for something lighthearted like a toilet nightlight.

Lastly, we hope you’re able to reconnect with those who matter to you this season, even if you can’t be together in real life. Zoom has removed its time limit for free meetings, so make sure to pencil in some quality time with your nearest and dearest.

From the archives

A year ago, we shared research we presented at the 50th annual Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) conference, focusing on the multisensory nature of design. Now that many of us are directly responsible for curating our own work environments, the need to consider them from a multisensory perspective is even greater.

This being election season, we’ve also been thinking about “Vote! Process and Place”, an event hosted by the AIANY Social Science and Architecture Committee. It was a fascinating discussion about the systems and buildings that enable or inhibit civic participation.

Want to nerd-out on office themed gift lists? Grab some cider and mull over our previous editions: Who needs some holiday cheer? from 2019, Sharing is caring in 2018, and Give the gift of a better workplace back in 2017.

That’s all for this month. Send us your favorite holiday finds—especially the gag gifts. We’ll leave you with the perfect dinner music for your holiday festivities, the delightful Tiny Desk concert by Bill Frisell.

In Case You Missed It

If you’re just now waking up from a food coma, here’s what happened while you were dozing.

Lessons from Lockdown

Virgin Unite featured our Home Office Hacks in this publication full of innovations for this telework moment.

CoreNet’s Leader Features Our Workplace Roadmap

We added new data from recent research to shape our latest on returning to the physical office.

A More Purposeful Approach to Workplace

We wrote for Virgin about telework and smart buildings, and how adoption has been accelerated by COVID.

Restrooms: At the Center of Public Health and User Experience

In celebration of World Toilet Day, we highlight new challenges and opportunities in restroom design.

Beyond 2020: Power of the Workplace<

Our friends at WorkSpace Connect covered our latest office reentry webinar on the look and feel of future workplaces.


This new startup offers immersive views of construction sites to help clients understand their buildings.

Looking Ahead

We’re always thankful to have opportunities to meet people and share the latest and greatest in workplace strategy. Here’s where we’ll be in the next few weeks:

Back to the Workplace

PLASTARC’s Amy Rosen shares practical steps for returning to the office. Hosted by the NYC Department of Small Business Services on Dec. 8

Adopting Corporate Coworking

Join our next webinar, which will look at how companies can make coworking part of their spatial mix, in support of wellbeing and performance. Happening Dec 10.

IFMA World Workplace

Facilities Management professionals share groundbreaking discoveries, emerging tools and strategies impacting the industry. Now happening virtually Dec 9-11.

Decolonizing Design Research: Activist Scholar

Researchers discuss the use of research to support equity and justice in the built environment. Happening virtually Dec 14.