The impact of Covid-19 is creating new opportunities for the smart home to accommodate the new army of home-workers. Until now, integration inefficiencies and brand silos have prevented smart home devices from living up to their potential.
However, newfound working habits brought about by the pandemic offer the prospect of novel products and ideas in the smart home domain. Products which seamlessly and adaptably manage workflows between a mixture of home and work environments will prove attractive to those having to come to terms with workplace uncertainty.
Shrewd marketing would target a new and large market in search of a better home-work balance and improved wellbeing. This opportunity can reinvigorate the sector by making existing smart home products stickier, piquing user interest and thereby laying the ground for meaningful product development and future uptake.
Pandemic restrictions have blurred the line between home and work spaces
As many countries weather a second bout of restrictive measures in response to Covid-19, hopes of a quick return to normal modes of working have diminished – though news of a soon-to-be-available vaccine may change the outlook. Whilst there are some benefits of home-working in terms of reduced expenditure and less commuting, the difficulties encountered by home-workers are by now well-documented.
The biggest headache is the blurring of the work-home boundary. A survey published in June 2020 by Nuffield Health reported that 80% of British workers felt that home-working negatively impacted their mental wellbeing, whilst 30% cited a particular difficulty in managing a home-work balance as a primary factor for this outcome.
Given the expected longevity of the current circumstances, it would be remiss of players in the smart home market not to consider responding to such findings through new product development and marketing.
Home-workers likely to take up targeted smart home products
In September 2020, Google released a new feature within its Assistant app called ‘Workday Routine’ which is specifically aimed at home-workers. It provides pre-configured and customizable schedules to help break up the working day, pushes reminders for regular wellbeing activities, and integrates work schedules effectively with personal calendars. Crucially, the product functions alongside other Google Smart devices, namely the Nest smart speaker, which acts as a practical and central gateway between work and home tasks.
Rather than launch an exceptionally innovative product, Google has set out to market a solution targeted to meet the current concerns of remote-workers. Google is positioning its Assistant as a must-have tool to fix the messy work-life arrangements with which many are struggling. Google is also marketing the essential connection between the use of its product and improved personal wellbeing, with users expected to embed the product in their homes and routines.
Sticky products will pave the way for real development
Smart home companies want to make existing smart products as sticky as possible for new home-based workers. The goal is for smart home systems to remain vital to users’ work-life organization even when the need to work from home is eventually removed.
The problem is that smart home products, whilst novel and convenient, do not yet perform must-have functions; they do not address pain points for users or significantly recompense them in terms of time or cost. Smart winners of the future will be those able to prepare the ground now by entrenching their current products within user routines. Only once this is achieved can disparate widgets really start to resemble smart homes.