“Working from home” has become one of those lines that means everything and nothing. We know it means “not from the office”, but that tells us very little. “Home”, on the other hand, is full of meaning.
Our offices are functional, no matter how many pool tables we put in there. Its function is to enable us to get work done. We rarely identify with it or take our friends there.
Home, on the other hand, is part of who we are. Whether it’s a one-bedroom flat in the city centre, an executive home on a commuter estate, or something much more personal out in the country, it’s a statement. People see us on Zoom or Teams, what art we like, or our families. We are putting just a sliver of our souls on the line. We can use those slightly weird green screen backgrounds, which probably speaks volumes.
And there is etiquette. If you’re coming into my home or inviting me into yours, please don’t take it for granted. This is my / your space and requires to be treated as such. We may have corner offices at work, but not here.
And we work differently. I have worked from home since long before the pandemic pushed us into it. I do my best work here and set my own schedules. I’m happy to have those I invite to come and work here with me as long as they respect my space.
It will be interesting to see how this pans out as more and more people elect to work from home, and in many cases, change where that home is. People who work from home are, almost by definition, more mobile in every sense of the word—working from home changes my circle of friends and my opportunities.
We have got used to treating offices rather like executive factories. The idea that we are reversing the process of a couple of centuries ago when we pulled people out of craft cottage industries into factories may be switching back is salutary.
If we work from home, our relationship with work changes. We start to become craftworkers again. It will take a while, but with globalisation somewhat dented and likely to remain so, it will change things for some time.
I think it’s an excellent thing.