Everything we used to believe about offices is changing. Throughout history, from kings on thrones to CEOs with massive desks, success meant a special chair and an office with an enviable location. Think of all those movies where a glassed-in corner with a view signaled a Very Powerful Person, from Gordon Gekko to the Wolf of Wall Street. Now casual Friday is every day and not only have we ditched the suits, we’ve exited the buildings.
It’s a relief to not have to keep up with the Gekkos and wolves, spending money on commercial real estate, walnut furniture and ergonomic chairs when the dining table or sofa at home can get the job done just as efficiently. Working from home also has the luxurious advantage of zero commute time. No fuel, no tolls, no parking woes.
We’ve carried around the “big corner office” idea at least since the early 70s, when the Sears Tower was built in Chicago with the idea that executives would vie for the spacious offices on the upper floors. People who came of age in that era and work at home often think that they need to designate a room as a home office, but that too has become obsolete. Yes, having a door that closes so that you can have privacy during phone calls and video conferences or to get away from distractions is important, but because technology has given us such mobility, any room with a door can serve this purpose. With a decent charge on our devices, we can work for hours without even needing access to a power outlet.
I started my career in the late 80s and worked in offices through the 1990s, so when I started working from home in 2000, I was still attached to the idea that my office should have its own room. But 20 years and one pandemic later, I decided to utilize that room for another purpose and downsized my office. Out went the huge and hugely expensive ergonomic chair. Out went the desk. Out went all the drawers full of extra supplies, like resume-stock paper, special report folders, staplers and similar items that we needed when we did so, so much with paper. I rarely print anything anymore. It was difficult, because since early childhood I’ve had a “school” supplies fetish and adore a cleverly shaped paper clip, but I parted with a lot of that stuff.
With my office reduced to a couple two-drawer file cabinets, an in-box, a laptop and a printer, I moved it into my good-sized bedroom closet, which thankfully had a plug just where I needed it so that I could power my printer and charge my computer. A couple reams of printer paper and a box of envelopes are among the very minimal supplies I need to store now. I have a little stool in there in case I need to sit while I print up some documents or do some filing.
I was able to create a mini office in my closet because I had done a super purge—not only did I not need the office, I did not need a lot of the office-worthy clothes. When you work from home a lot, you don’t need as much variety in your wardrobe. A couple pair of pajamas and something nice to wear on top for Zoom meetings are really all you need. If you put on a nice outfit, you might feel higher self-esteem, which generates better energy and productivity. Personally I’m able to be very creative in my pajamas. All’s I need is my phone, my laptop, and a hot cup of coffee.
You don’t even have to clean house before a meeting! With Zoom virtual backgrounds, you can look as if you’re calling in from Tahiti or the Eiffel Tower. You can even turn the video function of the call off if you don’t feel like brushing your hair that day.
All the Zoom in the world will never replace the sparks of creativity that can fly with the spontaneous comradery that a designated brick and mortar away from home work site makes possible. I have very fond memories of those times. Home has a host of other relationships and distractions associated with it that are not always helpful to productivity…but that’s another column.
Have you got a home office you rarely use or that has just become a dumping ground for papers you don’t want to deal with? These days, turning it into a guest room, a rental or a home workout room might be a much smarter.