“There’s no place like home.”
Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz |
Before the events of early 2020, the typical home had one role: to provide comfort, safety, and respite from the stresses and challenges of the outside world. To use the titular term, it only needed to be a haven. When the COVID-19 pandemic swept business conventions aside and prompted the closure of schools throughout the globe, that changed.
Almost overnight, homes became offices for professionals who could no longer visit their offices but still had to get work done. Areas that were previously reserved for relaxation needed to double up as productivity zones. This soon led to a great deal of confusion and frustration, with the barrier between working life and home life having entirely collapsed.
And while things were awkward enough for those without children, those with children had to endure further complications when they found themselves needing to factor in the immense awkwardness of homeschooling. Their homes somehow had to fulfil three roles — if not simultaneously then at least alternatingly. If you’re in that position, you know how tough it is.
Now, we’re not asking if it’s possible for you to attempt to relax, do your job, and educate your kids from your home. Instead, we’re asking if it’s possible to do it effectively. Can your home function as an office, school, and haven? Let’s consider it.
Getting the furniture right
Think about what you’d normally have in a home. A comfortable sofa, a stylish table, lighting to calm you down… In many cases, a lot of style over substance. But office spaces demand practicality. An office desk, for instance, doesn’t need to look great, which is why most companies will kit their offices out with completely generic desks, chairs, and lighting.
What matters for them is that the furniture is sufficiently functional. Anything beyond that is an unnecessary expense when productivity is the only goal. If you want your home to be suitable for relaxing or working, you need utilitarian furniture that also fits the aesthetic. For that, you’d need to get away from conventional office suppliers and look at a brand that caters to home and business buyers (Furniturebox being a great example for its office desks in particular).
But what about schooling? Well, the same furniture that works for office purposes will work for that, but you may need some extra space unless you want to keep swapping out your laptop (or can use the same machine for both purposes, which is unlikely). The kitchen table is often good enough for homeschooling, but think about setting up a dedicated study area.
Handling the noise levels
As nice as it would be to keep these three roles separate, that’s not usually possible. While you’re working, your kid(s) should be studying, and that means getting through Zoom calls while trying to avoid distractions. How well you manage in those circumstances will depend on how you cope with noisy environments and how you act to reduce the noise levels.
You could, for instance, pick up some high-quality noise-canceling headphones to help you get on with your work regardless of what’s going on around you — and a simple lock on the door could allow you to avoid too many visual distractions in your webcam feed, though most companies have become fairly understanding when it comes to family interruptions.
Another source of noise can be arguments with your kid(s) owing to the difficulties of homeschooling. This is a terrible time for kids who just want to be out socializing with their friends and really don’t want to put their free time into learning, so you may need to be relatively harsh with discipline. The sensible thing to do, then, is try to delay conversations likely to lead to a lot of noise until you can handle them. If you need to take a nap when you’re done with work, do that before you announce the need for extra studying
Maintaining a clear schedule
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, you need to have a clearly-defined schedule if you’re going to successfully make your home an office, a school, and a haven. That means starting and finishing work at set times instead of unintentionally working late because you got distracted — The Muse has a sample schedule to consider. It also means having fixed-length study sessions instead of trying to get your kid(s) to study all day every day (which will never work).
If you know exactly when you’re going to be working, when you’re going to be teaching, and when you’re going to have free time (and you’re committed to enforcing those limits), then you can cater your mindset accordingly. It’s never going to be easy to do so much from your home, but if you put in the time and effort, you can make it work adequately well for the moment.
Does the future lie in living, working and teaching in your home? Let’s hope it isn’t, because that’s clearly not the optimal scenario — but what we can tell at this point is that it isn’t quite the impossible setup it initially seemed to be. If you truly have no alternative, then don’t resign yourself to failure. You can make it work.
Article by: Laura May, justanothermagazine.com
Laura May is a Digital Editor at Just Another Magazine. She launched the magazine with co-founder Stevie last year and is probably at her happiest when she is writing or editing articles.
Laura loves exploring the world too — she grew up in the UK, but used to live in California and takes any chance she can get to book a flight somewhere new and exciting!
When she’s not globetrotting, Laura finds topics around wellbeing fascinating — whether it’s mental health, physical fitness or our relationships with other people.