How to renegotiate your relationship with the space in your home in times of Covid-19.
The past months have shown that the challenge of adapting our working dynamics to our home environment is not a one-off event, but rather a process that is constantly being redefined by changing conditions. It subsequently requires our constant adjustment and readjustment, according to the stage that we find ourselves in during the pandemic. This process is, however, essential, as its impact could be reflected in our routines, work performance, health, mental wellbeing, and daily social interactions.
Our interactions are defined by the context that they happen in. The sociologist Erving Goffman, for example, thinks of people as actors, and of their interactions as performances. These interactions are dominated by different values in different settings, and he distinguishes between ‘front stage’ and ‘back stage’ behaviour. He argues that an individual’s ‘front stage’ performance is shaped by the social expectations of the role they are currently fulfilling, while in the ‘back stage’, one can let go of them1. We can choose to think of this as the distinction between the ‘private’ and the ‘public’, and this is often defined by different spatial settings, as well as the actors present in them. Due to the current social-distancing restrictions, however, we can see these two becoming more and more intertwined, as we find ourselves needing to spend a considerable amount of our time in only one setting.
When considering this idea in relation to our current context, a number of issues might arise. This is mainly because more often than not, our houses were not designed with the intention of having to conduct such a variety of daily activities in them. As a result, many houses are small, and might not include a work-dedicated area. This becomes significant in the long run, when thinking of the consequences it might have for our work and life balance.
Αn individual’s ‘front stage’ performance is shaped by the social expectations of the role they are currently fulfilling, while in the ‘back stage’, one can let go of them.
In order to make working from home a sustainable practice – i.e. one we can sustain for the long term – we need to pay attention to different kinds of challenges that we might encounter, and to establish a plan to adapt the space in our homes. To help you get started with this process, we have put together a list of 3 ideas that you can easily keep in mind while adapting the space in your home to your daily routine.
1. Create a dedicated work area
The first and most effective way to enhance our working from home dynamic is to separate the spaces in our homes according to different purposes. Accordingly, the first clearly established division could be an office area. If you don’t have a separate room to turn into a home office, this could be created either by sharing space, or time.
Now, this may be a challenge for a lot of us, if our houses are not large enough. If you do not have an extra room in your house, your work dedicated space does not have to be a room, it can be an area. You could carve out some space in the bedroom, in the living room, or in the kitchen, depending on your personal situation. For decorating it, you could opt for plants, art, books, or an office lamp. Good light is essential for maintaining our focus and wellbeing while working from home. If you would like to learn more about how to improve your home office lighting, check out our article from last week.
If you don’t have enough space, you can create a work dedicated area based on timeshare. This means that at different times, you would be using the space differently. You could, for example, set up a desk in such a way that you could easily pack it up at the end of the day. For instance, you could pick an existing table in your house and use it for different purposes at different times, or you could share it with someone else. Another idea would be to invest in a flexible desk: either a foldable desk or a desk with wheels, both of which you could easily store away outside of work hours, making the most of the space available in this way.
Separate the spaces in our homes according to different purposes.
2. Create a distinct leisure area
This area is just as important as the work one, and this is why it’s relevant to consider the distinction between the two when rearranging your home. So be sure not to compromise your leisure area, or give it up entirely to make room for your work area. Ideally, you want to have both, even if they are not large. An effective way to create a distinction in a small space is to decorate the areas differently. Consider decorating it by using colors that create a calming atmosphere, such as different shades of blue or pastel nuances2.
3. Establish clear boundaries
A key aspect for achieving an optimal work and life balance is having a clearly delineated boundary between the spaces with different functions, such as work, leisure, relaxation, eating and sleeping areas. However, having a spare room or extra space is not essential for creating a home environment that facilitates your wellbeing. Where the different areas cannot be separated by a wall, they can be in the same room. You could, for example, use a bookcase or any form of screen in between the different spaces to create the illusion of separation, while also maintaining the openness of the room.
The current situation has challenged us in many ways, and working from home is one of the central ones that many of us face. The layout and design of our homes is an aspect we start to take for granted a while after having moved in one place, but reconsidering it may give us a new, improved perspective on our lives. The space we live in has now become the main environment responsible for fostering our daily interactions, and choosing to reorganise it mindfully could be useful for our wellbeing during these times. To make this ongoing readjustment easier, consider creating boundaries based on time and space, according to the principles outlined in this article. In this way, we can maintain a distinction between our private and public selves, while facilitating better interactions with others.
If you would like to learn more about enhancing your home space while working from home, or if you are wondering how you can apply the ideas in this article to your own home situation, get in touch with us, we would be happy to help with any questions you may have.