Any job whether new or old has familiar patterns to it. There’s a start and end time each day, a place to work, a mental connection with employment, colleagues to collaborate with and tools to conduct work with. The forced shift to bring all of that home is a massive convergence. The home, which has been a private space, is now a full time work space. People who decide to change careers and work from home with their own business take years to master the art of navigating home and work life. It’s supposed to be a continuously evolving process that’s been immediately compressed within a very short time. Preparing the home for work is a migration activity that takes an incredible amount of time and effort. Most of us and our homes have been unprepared, and it’s completely understandable.
How prepared were we to work from home?
In our interviews for DayShift, it does seem obvious to say that kids, our spouse, and even pets are a new type of colleague. What hasn’t been obvious is how they will alter and affect how work is done, how we feel about working this way and how they feel about us working around them. There is something about our work life being revealed to the people we live with which is the type of exposure that we and the people we live with weren’t prepared for. We even heard that a pet dog might enjoy having a bit of time alone every once in a while, questioning what are all these humans doing at home all the time? All this in addition to the shift in work where our colleagues are visiting our work at home life, virtually. It’s a lot to take in.
Before the pandemic we only knew what went on at work and at school based on what was reported to us and what we asked about. The people and pets we live with are now colleagues, available for perks such as a walk or having lunch together. But independence is a challenge to navigate. This can motivate or demotivate, depending on the day, season, and demands of work and home life. It can introduce complexity about who works where, and when, and how we tool up or ration our work-related tasks to do. People may need acquaintances and neutral places for confiding small, but emotionally important matters. Culturally it can change the way we think about the people we live with as their knowledge of work and work-related stress enters the home environment.
Living the working at home dream isn’t quite what we thought it would be.
Moments of working from home alone have the advantage of privacy. You decide who to let into your work life and are protected by a virtual button of acceptance. You’re either available, or completely unavailable. As time goes on however, questions arise around the topic of, is this work, or am I just hanging out at home?
Employment relationships are hoping for productive, healthy employees working remotely. In our interviews we noticed that if people don’t have an outlet for casual yet intimate conversations, they’ll struggle with their sense of self. This can undermine mental health for the individual and for the work collective. The cognitive load in navigating the different life modes of work, family, house maintenance, and personal time is an immense task. Emotional privacy becomes a topic of its own to research further.
The alternative to all this is the purpose built home. The physical layout and the objects within the space need to adapt to help us be more prepared for work. The patterns of work and living behaviour is a new design task. Is a work office defined as a separate place within the home, or like most of our interviews, the living environment is the same as the work environment. A kitchen table and chairs convert to a workstation. A temporary condition becomes fairly permanent, for months on end.
There is an aspect here which is about an awakening. The home is perceived through a different lens. We need to ask new questions of the home, and be able to sense opportunities to evolve it. The shift in preparing the home for work is an ongoing migration process which people need help in navigating. DayShift is a project aimed at exploring this further, to help people navigate their own way of consistently evolving and preparing their home for work.
Yours truly, the team at DayShift