In a lot of ways, it’s easy it is to get used to just alright. Working or doing school from home in a way that literally gets the job done, but not often in a way that is efficient or peaceful. Most of us have spent the last few months scrambling to adjust to a wildly different routine and set of circumstances, throwing together a #quarantinedesk and trying to get through the day.
But as we near five months of this pandemic with no real end in sight, we need to devote some effort to getting used to being at home as the new normal—at least for a while. For individuals and families that are going to be at home for the (semi-) long term, it’s time to re-evaluate what is working and what is not.
Absolutely none of these solutions is one-size-fits-all. Who lives in your home, how much space you have to work with, whether there are kids and how old they are, how much disposable income you have to put toward upgrades, what types of jobs you have—all of these affect what will possible for you. The ideas below are intended to present possibilities and new ideas for how we can all make our spaces work better for us.
Move past the #quarantinedesk
At the start of the pandemic, we were all making do with what we had on hand. Knowing we couldn’t just run to Ikea, I fashioned a #quarantinedesk for my husband out of my workshop saw horses and the leaf from the dining table. But given that his job seems unlikely to go back to the office for the foreseeable future, it’s time to move on, reshuffle how space is used in our home, and buy a real desk.
Get off the dining room table
Along with makeshift desk setups, temporary workspaces need to go. We’re long past the point where packing up all the work materials for dinner each day is feasible. Even in the smallest of spaces, you’d be surprised how possible it can be to carve out a space for a dedicated desk and chair. The peace of mind that comes from having a space that is settled and ready for work will make a difference.
Have a floating workspace
The trend in offices lately has been toward “hoteling,” wherein most folks don’t have a permanent workstation, but rather a place they can camp out for the day. What if you created a similar system at home? Set up one workstation in the main rooms of the home, and a second one elsewhere—in an office or bedroom, with a door that can shut, and trade off who uses which one. This system could work particularly well for families with little kids and two working parents. Establish a system for switching, so that each partner can take conference calls or spend time getting focused work done, and spend part of the day supervising the kids.
Create work zones and play zones
One of the first rules my family established at the start of the stay-at-home orders was that we all needed to have space to work and space to play. While it’s tempting to bring your laptop to the sofa or set up at the dining table, maintaining a work/life boundary becomes even more important when home is your office. We each set up a workstation somewhere out of the main spaces, so that we can make a sandwich for lunch or take a break for some TV without worrying that we’re interrupting someone’s conference call or virtual classroom.
Upgrade the headphones
If the space is not available to move into separate areas, then maybe it’s time to upgrade the headphones. A good pair of noise cancelling headphones should help any combination of people in your home participate in virtual classrooms or work conference calls, or just get things done without distractions. Particularly for families who are planning to make their family room the new one-room schoolhouse, headphones will help keep each kid on task.
There is no magic bullet. We are living in unprecedented times, and they are undeniably hard. But with a little effort, hopefully we can all make our home life a little easier right now.