What working from home has taught us about our office setups
Gabe Marans, Executive Managing Director of Real Estate Company Savills,
is back in his Park Avenue office in New York, but he has yet to leave Zoom. He and his colleagues in person still use video calls to speak with clients. Mr Marans says he looks better than ever on those calls, thanks to the ring light and the Lume Cube, another portable light fixture he bought to improve his home video calls during the pandemic last spring.
He has a second set of exactly the same lighting fixtures in his home office in Tenafly, New Jersey, where he still works one or two days a week. “Two pairs of everything” is his motto today. Another pandemic-era work habit that has stuck around is the switch from old-fashioned pen and paper to an iPad app called GoodNotes. It was becoming difficult to keep track of notebooks in his house as he used to interrupt his work day to spend time with his 3 year old son.
“I would say my workflow is a lot better and more streamlined now,” he says.
Workers across the country are reassessing their work-from-home setups as conventional offices slowly reopen. Some, like Mr Marans, are bringing back with them items from the home offices they upgraded during the pandemic. Others are reducing their home workspaces now that remote working is more everyday instead of the special occasion it became last spring.
Carole Ingber, a New York City talent agent, says the pandemic inspired her to deal with a chaotic pile of paperwork that had invaded her professional life. Last spring, when she brought all this gear home to continue her work remotely, she was overwhelmed and hired a professional organizer. She then invested in hanging files, a filing drawer, a dedicated place to drop off mail and a stationery container.
“The new filing system is with me in the office every time we come back to work in person this year,” she says.
Many workers have invested heavily in their home offices after the first wave of pandemic lockdowns last March, says Asher Lipman, New York-based home improvement coach. “As the pandemic progressed, people became more and more grandiose in their plans because they realized it wouldn’t be for another two weeks or a month,” he says. “There’s been a neat transition from asking for help setting up a workstation on their kitchen tables to converting closets, basements or entire rooms. “
But the rollout of the vaccine in the United States and the interest of many companies in restarting in-person work this summer means some home offices aren’t as permanent as many workers once thought.
Robert David, executive director of a nonprofit human resources organization, still works from his home in Half Moon Bay, California, but has downsized his home office setup during the pandemic. Last March, when video calls became a big part of his workday, he felt awkward about the spare bedroom where he worked. He bought a green screen so he could use virtual backdrops to hide the king-size bed behind him, like a ride on the Hollywood sign that said “Silicon Valley”.
“I finally gave it up about two months ago and thought, enough is enough, just show the room,” he says. Once afraid that his surroundings would be less impressive than the fancy kitchens and shelving that stood behind his colleagues and work contacts, he found that regular setting up of the backdrop was too much of a hassle. He now plans to donate the screen, which he says costs around $ 100, to Goodwill.
Not all workers are dismantling their home offices yet. There are fewer used desks and office chairs for sale than at this time last year, says Reham Fagiri, CEO of AptDeco, an online marketplace for used furniture. “The demand for home offices is always high, so it looks like people want to keep the products they already own,” she says.
Many workers who set up their home offices later in the pandemic say the key to avoiding buyer’s remorse is slow.
Cassandra Rivera, a Detroit-based career coach for remote-working youth, didn’t start furnishing her current space until after moving into a new home with her husband in October. “I wanted to be very careful with what I was buying,” she says. She had time to imagine exactly what she wanted after spending spring and summer working on a laptop in her parents’ basement. She started with just the basics: a desk and office chair from Wayfair,
and a Home Depot lamp – and didn’t add much more than a DIY paint job over the following months.
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A common mistake that leads to home office clutter is not thinking about what your specific job actually involves, says Stephanie Shalofsky, a New York-based professional organizer who helped Ms. Ingber with her home office in the spring. latest.
“Last spring I worked with a guy who had two big screens, an iPad and a laptop at home, and he didn’t have any space to actually work,” she says. Turns out what he really needed was a standing desk, as it mirrored his desk setup before the pandemic and that helped him stay focused, and a single monitor.
Greg Laurence, a professor of management at the University of Michigan-Flint who studies home offices, says the initial desire of many workers to personalize their work environment has waned as the pandemic and remote working dragged on. . “At first we didn’t have real standards on what you can and can’t have behind you,” he says, prompting some workers to buy decorations for the parts of their homes they worked in. .
But as some degree of remote working has become a more permanent feature in the lives of many workers, he has observed a trend towards less personalization and more institutionalization. For example, more and more companies will likely send their employees documents with their logos to display in the background of their home office, he says. “I think the whole Zoom library phenomenon will fade away.”
Write to Krithika Varagur at [email protected]
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