For many, lockdown has razed to rubble the already weak boundaries between work and home as people have scrambled to set up shop in spare rooms, bedrooms and garden sheds.
Staying away from the office may have started as a temporary measure, but those who have sampled flexible working for the first time may not be so willing to give it up.
According to a new survey by insurer Direct Line, 44% of UK employees–which equates to some 13 million people–plan to ask for permanent flexible working arrangements after coronavirus restrictions are fully lifted.
However, as many of us are surely discovering, our homes–which can be both lonely and full of potential distractions–are not always the ideal places for productive work.
Cynthia Ring, chief people officer at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, says the line between work and home life is more blurred now than ever before. She adds: “Shelter-in-place guidelines have shifted our business operations from onsite to virtual and have left many employees feeling isolated, overwhelmed, unsure of how to achieve a work-life balance. Many people’s mental health is suffering from the inability to separate their work and home identities.”
Separate your home self from your work self
Workplace design experts advise creating a degree of physical separation between work and home lives wherever possible, as a laptop in your eyeline can be a constant reminder of work that needs doing. Preferably, pick a room with a door that you can close at the end of the day and avoid working from spaces normally used for relaxation.
But dedicating an entire room to work is not possible for everyone. Those short on square footage at home should look at ‘flexible’ furniture that can be hidden away at the close of business, like standing desk converters you can use on top of a kitchen table, and lightweight, fold-away room partitions.
Aviya Hershkovitz, design and creative manager at co-working provider Mindspace, says: “The market is loaded with flexible furniture and it will probably grow even more. Choose smart, functional and timelessly designed pieces as you’re going to use them every day and they are going to be displayed at your home.”
Remote workers can also create some emotional space between home and work by getting dressed for work and shutting down computers when the workday ends.
Alejandra Albarran, director of design and innovation at ROOM, which makes soundproof office phone booths, says: “It’s also helpful to have a routine and to take breaks throughout the day. Try to wake up around the same time, grab coffee, and then do what you normally would to get started at work. While it can be easy to bypass any breaks while at home, make sure to stand up, go for a walk or grab a snack. At the end of the day, do your best to shut down and take time for yourself.”