I have an amazing kitchen: a 48-inch Thermador range, rounded out with a suite if other Viking appliances. A home chef’s dream kitchen, to be sure! My kitchen is a source of pride and a great showpiece. And until March 2020, that’s what my kitchen was – a symbol of success. It was not so often the place where appetites were satiated and hunger pangs were satisfied. Of course, some holiday meals were prepared there, and an occasional meal was thrown together, but more often than not our kitchen sat woefully underutilized, with restaurant leftovers heated up in the microwave or a few slices of bread fetched from the toaster on my way out the door in the morning.
Nine months later, and like so much else about our lives these days, things have changed for my kitchen. My family now relies on it for three meals a day. Like many of my customers, most days of the week I work from home. If I have a Zoom meeting, I may throw on a nice shirt and some makeup, but I haven’t had reason to put on “nice” pants or real shoes for months. I forage through my fridge for sandwich meats or salad fixings for lunch, and most nights dinner simmers on the stove by 6 pm, having previously been thrown together while eating lunch. We’re no longer grabbing lunch out while at work or stopping on the way home to eat dinner in a restaurant before settling in for the evening. Instead, we are constantly hunting for meal ideas. My daily routine has changed significantly, and I know I’m not alone.
Prior to the pandemic, many Americans enjoyed the perks of living in a big city. COVID-19 has city dwellers reevaluating where to live. With more and more people working remotely, the suburbs and rural areas are beginning to look more attractive. At the same time, employers are discovering that they may need much less real estate in the future. This new world where working at home is the norm means that companies may require physical space for only a fraction of their workforce. Many of my colleagues are beginning to consider hybrid home/office models, with employees continuing to work at home long-term but occasionally coming to the office for face-to-face meetings or to collaborate with their teams.
The pandemic has alerted many of us managers and company owners to the possibilities that technology offers for today’s workplace. We might not have chosen the circumstances, but now that we find ourselves here, we can see the advantages: allowing employees to work from home boosts access to talent, reduces costs and improves the employee’s quality of life. Chances are that some of the changes we’ve adapted to navigate work during this time will be here to stay.
This is all sure to have a huge impact on the residential appliance service industry. We’ve already experienced unprecedented demand for service with so many customers stuck at home and using their appliances more often. If such a large portion of the American workforce continues to work at home even after the pandemic dust settles, it stands to reason that this demand won’t decrease any time soon! Refrigerators will be opened more frequently; more meals will be cooked on cooktops and in ovens. Dishwashers will continue to groan and whine with more dishes to be cleaned.
For all the heartbreak and exhaustion of the past months, we’re discovering that slowing down and staying home isn’t the worst thing ever. In fact, it’s pretty restful. We cook together and sit around the table for dinner; we take walks and check in with our neighbors. And like so many other things in our lives, it seems that the pandemic will continue to affect our industry for years to come.