RV, travel trailer and camper van manufacturers are refocusing their designs to cater to customers looking for mobile office space.
The rise in remote work prompted by the pandemic, combined with cabin fever caused by stay-at-home orders, has led many people to take up a "work from anywhere" lifestyle that they never had considered before.
Stanford research revealed that 42% of U.S. workers are now working full time from their homes, and that number might continue growing. Along with concerns about flying, the homebound workforce is part of the reason that the RV market has seen skyrocketing demand in recent months.
Just as internet connectivity and workspace availability have become expected of hotels and resorts, consumers now seek the same infrastructure in an RV. Makers such as Bowlus Road Chief and Leisure Travel Vans already are offering remote work-friendly floor plans, while others have changes in the works.
Dean Corrigal of Leisure Travel Vans said that between 30 and 40% of the e-mails his company is receiving come from customers inquiring specifically about the vans' mobile office capabilities.
"I think it's a huge growing segment," he said.
Several other RV manufacturers whose products were not previously optimized for the so-called "digital nomad" segment are now altering their new designs or updating previous builds to accommodate remote work. For Winnebago, this means incorporating features such as improved soundproofing, quieter power systems and ergonomic seating.
"Work from home is now one of the big boxes that product development has to check when they're considering a new product," said Brian Hazelton, vice president at Winnebago.
Interest predates COVID
Even prior to the recent boom, demand for office-style amenities was amplifying.
"As we learned more about the Class B van business, we started to see those demands for connectivity," Hazelton explained. "That customer group was really pushing us to do ... a lot of those things before the COVID pandemic started."
Airstream is taking a similar tack in terms of updating existing floor plans to better accommodate remote work, according to the company's president and CEO, Bob Wheeler. He said that the company already had been planning product inclusions to cater to the digital nomad trend, but that the pandemic has expedited these efforts.
"We tried to look at some of our floor plans and say, 'Where could we carve out a dedicated work area so you don't have to clean up your workday in order to have a meal [at the dinette table]?' " Wheeler said. In order to create desk space within an RV's limited dimensions, the company must adjust other interior amenities, perhaps decreasing the size of dinettes or eliminating a second bed.
"It's not overkill," Wheeler said. "You don't need a 5-foot-wide slab [desk] in your travel trailer, but we find that when we talk to people about the option to have this area where they can set up and leave their work set up, and still live in the rest of the trailer, that's really appealing."