I interviewed three principals in three different large firms across the country, interviewed two associates with different firms, talked informally with several designers at a New York Holiday Party and conducted an online survey where we received 95 responses.
On average, how many days per week do you spend in the office?
These results were surprising. When the first survey was published, the original choices were 1 day thru 5 days and we immediately received an email asking why 0 was not an option. Quickly we added the zero-option to the survey and to my surprise it was the second most popular response at 23%, following closely at 5 days at 27%.
In 2022, do you plan to spend more days in the office? 60% of the respondents do not plan on spending more time in the office in 2022.
These first two questions get to the heart of one of the most important issues because if the lighting designers are not in the office, how will the reps and regional managers pitch new products. There is no clear answer, but there is clear acknowledgement that lighting designers want to see and touch the products in person.
The survey shows that productivity stayed the same for the majority of the respondents, but my in-person interviews told a different story. Without exception, I heard detailed stories about productivity increasing because of the lack of commute, less water-cooler talk, and less visits from reps. The designers I spoke with said they would never go back to a daily 2-hour commute and 2 or 3 lunch-and-learns per week.
How many in-person visits did you receive per week from reps prior to COVID and how many in-person visits did you receive per week from reps now?
Pre-COVID: an average of 2.1 Now: an average of .61
The designers are spending less time in the office and will never go back to the preCOVID days, but they still want to see product in person.
The results show in person at designer’s office at 46% followed by webinar/video conference at 23% and in person at rep’s office or showroom at 17%. Email was only 1%. This is good news for the rep as it shows that the in-person visit to the designer is still preferred even if they aren’t in the office as much.
It is great news that 52% show strong or moderately strong, compared to 13% showing weak or moderately weak. During the discussions, it was apparent that there is a real issue finding design talent.
44% of the jobs have late deliveries. Designers tell me that another big consequence of the supply chain crises is mockups. There simply isn’t time to wait two to three months for samples and a second two to three months for production.
The designers are spending less time in the office and will never go back to the pre-COVID days, but they still want to see product in person. The trick is to have an exciting enough product to get the meeting. The demand for designers is strong, but supply chain issues cause problems throughout the process.