ℹ️ You’re reading Quartz Essentials: quick, engaging outlines of the most important topics affecting the global economy.
- 1 of 8
Quartz Obsession — Home office — Card 1
The global pandemic has left many of us with no choice but to juggle our 9-5 office duties with our domestic circus. For the lucky segment of workers who can actually do their jobs at home, setting up a functioning workstation—be it claiming part of a kitchen table or converting a home gym—became a priority when the lockdown orders hit.
In a way, most of us are well-practiced in making portable offices—with telecommuting, co-working, and all sorts of remote work arrangements already in place for years, and even before that, working from home was the norm for centuries. Artisans and merchants lived in the same building as their workshops and stores.
With no foolproof office reopening solutions in sight, it appears that home offices—in whatever scale—will be a standard design feature of our homes, even after the pandemic. It’s not ideal, but it doesn’t need to be so bad either.
Pull up a kitchen table chair.
- 2 of 8
Quartz Obsession — Home office — Card 2
20%: Share of the American workforce who can work from home during the pandemic
47%: Share who say they wear pants while doing so
¥150,000: Amount Japan Airlines employees are receiving for a “morale bonus,” which defrays the costs of teleworking
$70: What most Americans pay monthly for broadband internet
$75: Price of Marie Kondo-branded tuning fork and crystal set, which the tidying guru uses to signal the start of her work-from-home day
$250: Charge for working from Ernest Hemingway’s first home for the day
6:27 am: Average wake-up time of 300 high achievers interviewed by the New York Times
$1,500: Maximum US tax deduction for dedicated home offices for self-employed workers
$12,000: Retail price of a Zen Work Pod, a standalone office unit for your backyard
$28.12½: Amount Henry David Thoreau spent to build his own cabin at the Walden Pond State Reservation in 1845 (that’s $948.67 in today’s dollars)
- 3 of 8
Quartz Obsession — Home office — Card 3
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, in a letter to his daughter Ellen
- 4 of 8
Quartz Obsession — Home office — Card 5
5th Century: “Workhomes,” buildings that combine dwelling and workplaces, are common in Medieval Europe.
1800s: The Industrial Revolution shifts the locus of work from the home to the factory. Affluent Englishmen establish “Victorian libraries” in their city homes, which becomes a template for today’s home office.
1840s: Charles Darwin adds wheels to a William IV-style armchair so that he can roll around his lab—historians call this the first office chair.
1970: The Clean Air Act passes in the US, mandating employers to find ways to reduce commute times of staff members.
1973: NASA physicist and “father of teleworking” Jack Nilles publishes The Telecommunications-Transportation Tradeoff, a book that kicked off the WFH movement.
1974: The MITS Altair 8800, the first personal computer kit, debuts at a price of $459.
1977: Apple introduces Apple II, its first mass-market PC for home use. It goes on sale for $1,298 with monitors sold separately.
1979: IBM installs remote terminals in the homes of five employees so they can work remotely.
2000s: High speed broadband internet frees employees from being tethered to a corporate HQ.
2017: IBM, Yahoo, Best Buy, and Aetna cancel their remote work programs.
- 5 of 8
Quartz Obsession — Home office — Card 6
Your backyard is now prime office real estate. Heeding the cries of harried remote workers, architects have been busy coming up with new configurations to make working from home less of a nuisance. One deluxe solution is erecting a separate structure in your backyard. Like “she sheds”—stylish, personal bubbles for busy women—one can now order pop-up modernist work pods or pre-fab garden rooms, without having to go through an extensive home renovation.
- 6 of 8
Quartz Obsession — Home office — Card 7
White House insiders call a colonnade connecting the Executive Residence to the West Wing “the 45-second commute.” George W. Bush was a big fan.
- 7 of 8
Quartz Obsession — Home office — Card 8
In 1967, broadcaster Walter Cronkite gave a tour of a mock-up of a 21st-century home that includes a souped up home office. Among the curious gadgets in the room: a device that receives the news via satellites and a console for video calls. “With equipment like this in the home of the future, we may not have to go to work,” Cronkite declared. “The work would come to us.”
- 8 of 8
Quartz Obsession — Home office — Card 9
The kitchen table, the couch, or the bed? Without a formal home office, many workers are searching for the least evil makeshift workstation around their house. Kevin Butler, the chief ergonomist expert at Steelcase, says try all of them throughout the day—even your bed.
Working from the bed might even save you from back pain, he explains. “As long as you have something (like a tray) that props your laptop to the right level, I really don’t mind it,” says Butler, a long-time telecommuter who turned over his home office to his homeschooling kids. There are, of course, psychological pitfalls to working where we sleep, but a bed will often offer better lumbar support than slumping over a low table. “Would I prefer the bed over the kitchen table? Probably,” he attests.
Typing on a laptop at a kitchen table often results in back pain because the spine contorts in the opposite direction from its natural S-shape when we sit. Working in bed, propped up on pillows—a work stance preferred by the likes of Marcel Proust, Edith Wharton, Truman Capote, and apparently 80% of millennials—that rotation is not nearly as significant. Butler may not be your boss, but you’ve got his approval: “I’m all in if you want to work in bed in short bursts.”
- PLACE FOOD ORDERTwo of Africa’s biggest tech investors are backing a startup in the restaurant businessQuartz Africa • September 26, 2022
- GAME ONThis game will show you just how foolish it is to sell stocks right nowQuartz • August 26, 2015
- 👀The unnervingly specific holiday greetings of the Australian Bureau of StatisticsQuartz • September 26, 2022
- FOUL PLAYPotential pipeline sabotage could extend Europe’s gas crisis by yearsQuartz • September 28, 2022
- MESSAGE DELIVEREDWall Street bigwigs face $1.8 billion in fines over texts and WhatsApp messagesQuartz • September 28, 2022
- on the menuRestaurant menu screens are looking at you to decide what you might want to eatQuartz • September 27, 2022
- UNEARTHING HISTORYWhat interactive maps and 3D digital models reveal about Mau Mau detention camps in KenyaQuartz Africa • September 26, 2022
- IN PLANE SIGHTBiden's plan to eliminate hidden airline fees is taking flightQuartz • September 27, 2022