For the first time in four months, I walked into the Tulsa World newsroom last week. About a third of the chairs were missing from the desks.
Immediately, I regretted not driving the bigger vehicle to take mine home.
Among the realizations learned from the pandemic is how remote working can be effective, efficient and even preferred by workers.
But that means figuring out home offices.
For the first few weeks, co-workers took photos of their new workspaces, complete with dogs on laps and cats on computers.
My contribution was two angles: from the comfy chair in front of the living room television or from my bed with tons of pillows at my back. The dog and cat are still never far away.
Isolating with teenagers and a spouse has meant the obvious table and even cool nooks and crannies are taken. The kids claimed space with school-issued laptops, and my husband can squirrel away in his music room.
That left me in the odd places. Thank goodness for the mute button on Zoom calls, especially with the thunder of teenagers running through the house and rummaging for food.
Home offices aren’t new, but it’s new to my house.
There are two barriers to making this arrangement work, the physical and psychological. Workers need to close off from surroundings and mentally separate.
It’s been an adjustment to do both.
Home offices used to be spare rooms with heavy desks, extra landlines and a desktop computer. Then, technology got smaller and portable, turning coffee shops and libraries into personal offices.
My house doesn’t have a designated office. For years, any extra work brought home was easily managed from a sofa or recliner in an hour or two.
Now, after a stiff neck from nonergonomic furniture after eight or so hours on a laptop, it’s become clear my new normal needs an old-school design plan for the long term.
This pandemic will likely change the way work will be defined.
In some corners, productivity has been measured by amount of time in the office.
Post-pandemic, this surely ought to morph to allow more flexibility away from the workplace with performance judged by goals, not hours at a company desk.
This prediction comes from the significant uptick in remote working.
Between mid-March and April 2, Americans working from home rose from 39% to 62%, according to Gallup Panel data.
Three in five workers say they want to continue doing so after the pandemic restrictions lift.
This mirrors a survey from Clutch, a business-to-business online review site, which found 66% of Americans remote working by mid-April. But about 39% prefer an office while 40% like the remote option.
Those favoring the off-site choice say they like not having a commute (47%), a more flexible schedule (43%) and not having to dress up (33%). The downside is a difficulty in collaborating with co-workers (33%), frequent interruptions (27%) and problems sticking to a routine (26%).
This experience has workers and employers questioning their traditional structures and expectations.
Rather than require 40 hours of face time weekly, it’s more important to make the sale, finish the project or engage clients.
If that can be done better from home, then the change makes sense.
Or maybe there is a hybrid model that brings co-workers together for in-person collaboration or socialization regularly, while still giving an option for at-home daily work.
To prepare for this shift, quite a few people are re-imaging their living spaces: 54% of people didn’t have a remote workspace before the shutdown, according to YouGov in partnership with LinkedIn and USA Today.
That’s a lot of transformed guest rooms and searches for the right desks and lamps.
This is a good move. People will live in their homes with more purpose, and employers can offer more work-life balance.
One thing cannot be skimped upon: chairs. No matter where a person works, having the right chair will save on back problems later.
Even if that means borrowing the good ones from the office.