The blurring of home/office as a work location has recently become undeniably accelerated. Work anywhere technologies have empowered staff to be highly productive away from their traditional place of work. For some, it's the ability to focus away from their usual team. For others, it's the improved life balance of negotiating domestic and family duties during what were core office hours.

For many, the balance between family and work has been a challenge. There have been traditional organisations where staff having children (or, more importantly, being seen to spend time with those children) has been considered a form of weakness, making them unfit for career progression.

This has led to a professional façade quite different to their domestic personality. Thankfully this attitude has eroded considerably, and over the last ten years, there has been a considerable shift in creating family-friendly physical facilities in the corporate workplace. These facilities include parents' rooms, family spaces, creches and after school clubs. At the other end of the age spectrum, some larger corporations have deliberately designed family spaces that equally allow for the safe temporary care of an elderly dependent relative.

Resistance to acceptance

When attitudes towards family and the inclusion of family in the workplace were slowly shifting, COVID swept in and forced a game-changing response from the corporate world.

The pandemic necessitated widespread take-up of video conference windows into everyone's domestic worlds and has created far greater understanding and respect of our personal situations and responsibilities. We all saw the interruptions of children and pets, and this level of insight led to many amusing Zoom call moments! That invisible wall people put up to shield co-workers from their home lives disappeared.

Seeing each other's human side made domestic commitments seem less 'taboo', particularly for mothers who had previously felt the need to hide their parenting responsibilities to be taken seriously. The pandemic hasn't just changed how and where we work; It's changed how we view professionalism more broadly. And this shift in perception will inspire a change in workplace design as we create softer spaces that embrace the overriding aesthetic of 'home.'

bringing home to workplace hames sharley

The flexibility divide

It's worth noting that while the corporate window to our domestic worlds has opened, it could still only be temporary. Different organisations are responding very differently in post lockdown response.

The blurring of home/office as a work location has recently become undeniably accelerated. Work anywhere technologies have empowered staff to be highly productive away from their traditional place of work. For some, it's the ability to focus away from their usual team. For others, it's the improved life balance of negotiating domestic and family duties during what were core office hours.

For many, the balance between family and work has been a challenge. There have been traditional organisations where staff having children (or, more importantly, being seen to spend time with those children) has been considered a form of weakness, making them unfit for career progression.

Resistance to acceptance

When attitudes towards family and the inclusion of family in the workplace were slowly shifting, COVID swept in and forced a game-changing response from the corporate world.

The pandemic necessitated widespread take-up of video conference windows into everyone's domestic worlds and has created far greater understanding and respect of our personal situations and responsibilities. We all saw the interruptions of children and pets, and this level of insight led to many amusing Zoom call moments! That invisible wall people put up to shield co-workers from their home lives disappeared.

Seeing each other's human side made domestic commitments seem less 'taboo', particularly for mothers who had previously felt the need to hide their parenting responsibilities to be taken seriously. The pandemic hasn't just changed how and where we work; It's changed how we view professionalism more broadly. And this shift in perception will inspire a change in workplace design as we create softer spaces that embrace the overriding aesthetic of 'home.'

bringing home to workplace hames sharley

The flexibility divide

It's worth noting that while the corporate window to our domestic worlds has opened, it could still only be temporary. Different organisations are responding very differently in post lockdown response.

Workplaces will need to encourage employee interaction by providing more areas for collaboration; meeting rooms, casual lounge areas, and even games rooms provide a space for staff to socialise and connect. We know that many people struggled with lockdown isolation, reinforcing the idea that the office is not just a place to work. It's a place to connect with peers and enjoy being sociable, which will add to the sense of domestic crossover.

Family and home

Creating a sense of home in the workplace extends beyond softening physical spaces – it's about providing a place where family, and even pets, are welcome to visit. Whether that's creating private spaces for mothers to feed their babies, games areas for older children to play, or family rooms with TVs and microwaves so relatives can bring in food to eat. Designing a family-friendly workspace is about creating an inclusive place where families feel welcome, and employees feel at home.

While the concept of family-friendly design certainly isn't new, we can expect a growing demand for softening the office environment favouring a more domestic workspace as we emerge from the pandemic.

This past year has turned the world on its head. And working through lockdown has challenged our understanding of work and productivity. There is no longer a significant divide between work life and home life – and as those two worlds continue to merge, design will follow, ultimately creating more welcoming office environments that offer employees a home away from home.

 

Louisa Glennon is an Associate at Hames Sharley, while Stephen Moorcroft is a Principal and Workplace Portfolio Leader at the practice. For more information, head to hamessharley.com.au.