The Pull and Push of Working from Home

Let’s take a look at three themes that are changing what normal is and how new experiences collide with our home life altering our expectations.

There is no one single workplace in the home.

Most of the people we interviewed are drawn to a desire for natural light in their workplace. A workplace might be located out of convenience at first, but with renovations to the home, natural light attracts people to work in close proximity to it. Habitual arrangements of peripherals also condition us about where work will feel natural and productive.

When work takes on a social life, people become more aware of their environment. What a painting, a bookcase, or the colour of our surroundings say about us really does matter. This is how people render their personal identity to others or set the tone for a very significant event. Such as a job interview, a funding proposal, or making deeper connections with colleagues. The social practices of work can be business-like, and they also need to be informal, playful and personal at times.

The workplace and the objects within it must be able to transition from the experience of work to the experience of home.

We observed through our research that partners or spouses and children have become a new type of colleague. They are now more aware of the different types of stresses we exhibit, and the nature of our work that was once invisible to them.

Colleagues that work from a distance now see into personal places and our identity at home. In places such as our kitchen, dining room, basement or even a bedroom. All of these spaces have a visual order and identity to them that needs to be restored on a daily basis if work and home are going to live in harmony. A chair that reminds us of work can feel like an unwelcome guest. A wall covered in post-its might need to go into hiding or be archived as a digital document.

Where we work creates behavioural cues that trigger our habits to be productive or to take breaks.

Whether people were used to doing all of their work in an office or at a cafe, those social environments were filled with people doing things in predictable rhythms and intensity. Not all work is good work though. There are times when people need reminders to take a rest from connected devices and networked availability to people, online meetings, notifications, and spontaneous conversations.

Productivity is talked about in a collective sense, but individuals think about doing their best work. The difference being that one element is about getting things done rapidly, while the other element is about summoning creativity.

It’s common to attribute a creative win to luck, but when we work from home a 60 minute jog or 30 minutes on the guitar can feel like hours of emotional rest. It’s the pause that produces our best work and helps the individual to promote hidden talents to a colleague or manager. There has been a lot reported on the experience of isolation that comes from working alone at home. What also happens is an increase in autonomy, that feeds our sense of curiosity and exploration which leads directly to a heightened level of creativity.

Design in context: Employers hoping to gain the most from their talent will have plenty of creativity and productivity to gain when their staff understand when to use the home office to a mutual advantage. Rather, think of the home office in connection with the head office and a natural navigation to both in any given work week.