Working from home? Who’s home?

This has been the hardest thing for people who didn’t work from home before the pandemic to visualize: your current WFH scenario is not your future WFH scenario. Your options are not “in the office, with other people, 9 to 6 every day” or “miserable and alone in my small apartment.”

Anne Helen Petersen

I read this article and started thinking “why have I been only thinking in terms of working at (my) home or in the office?” That’s how I’ve always thought of it but this article described a scenario I’d not considered before – who’s home?

Before the pandemic, I’d frequently go to Seattle, where my closest friends live, and camp out in one of their guest rooms for a week. Some days I’d go work in a coffee shop for most of the day. Sometimes I’d go work in my friend’s office with her. And some days, me and some collection of those friends would work from home. We are employed in wildly different industries, but it worked.

I’ve used a coffee shop or family member’s house as a temporary workplace in the past when I’ve needed to – and by temporary I mean an hour or two, every now and again. Nothing regular. I’ve worked in the airport and on a platform as I’ve needed to when travelling (for work). Sometimes the needs for access and urgency in getting something done has necessitated it.

I’d never thought of working in the way Anne Helen Peterson describes in her article ‘The Future of Remote Work is the Opposite of Lonely‘, but could it work?

Well, I guess there needs to be a few things in place for it to work. Firstly, we’ll have to be rid of the Covid-related restrictions on movement and social distancing.

Secondly, do I know my colleagues well enough to camp out at their house all day, or them at mine? Would my friends want me at their house for a day or more … are they able to work like this or would I be house-sitting for them while they’re out at work? How hard would it be to arrange for a number of us from different teams, projects, organisations even to be available for this kind of work at the same time?

Thirdly, could I work at my parent’s apartment for a couple of days, knowing how they like their space (and me, mine), how distracting it would be after not seeing them for more than a year? My parents have a view of the Isle of Wight and The Needles from their apartment, and the beach is just across the road from them – do I have enough willpower to stay at the kitchen table working when the sun’s out and the sea is calling?

This does actually open up a whole new perspective for me … it’s no longer ‘working from home’, rather it’s working from whose home? And how far away could that actually be?

For me this would give me the opportunity to spend time with friends and family I’ve not spent any time with for years, even before the pandemic. Time away from the keyboard is precious and I spend as much as I can with my wife and kids. Yes, I miss all the social stuff at work, but it’s because this time is my own and I chose my family first. Nothing wrong with that, I hear some of you say, but you’d be surprised at how this can alienate you from some circles.

A day or two with old colleagues, them doing their work and me mine, chatting between meetings and calls, sharing memories and ideas like we use to. Support and social interaction, bouncing thoughts and ideas around, helping each other develop and fine-tune projects or issues that are taking their toll on time or our health. Having a different support network or view from the keyboard is as important as actually being somewhere different.

So imagine: A day or two working with your friends, a day or two in the office, a day or two at home with or without my partner, or my partners, or my garden. Time, during the day, to go to the grocery store, to mail a package, to go play with a friend’s kid for an hour, to take a nap, to read a book for research in the sun, to take a work call while walking the dog. Maybe I have a lot of concentrated work on a Thursday, and then do an interview on a Friday and go ski.

I don’t see loneliness in that scenario, or the equivalent … of a reduced salary. I see my version of a full life … “We don’t work from home because work is what matters most. We work from home to free ourselves to focus on what actually does.”

Photo by Jason Richard on Unsplash