As of 2011, about 34 million Americans worked from their home in some capacity, and that number is increasing. The rise in more people working from home means more time they’re able to spend with family, right?
In actual fact, it means remote workers are getting creative about how to avoid the folks they share space with.
It’s a Friday afternoon in Los Angeles. Author and screenwriter Jessica Koosed Etting is sitting in her home office, emailing with her publishing company about a new young adult novel. It’s an unusually quiet moment. Etting has two sons, ages 3 and 1. Right now they’re on a walk with the babysitter.
“I kind of know they’re about to walk in and I’m trying to do things that are less concentration-heavy, because I know I’m going to be jolted in a few minutes,” she says.
Etting’s office is in a nook in her bedroom. She has a bathroom in here, and she stocks a full supply of water, coffee and snacks.
“Because if I am thirsty and I have to leave my office for a glass of water in the kitchen, that could inevitably mean I run into the kids and the nanny, and then it’s ‘Mommy, sit with me for lunch,'” she says.
But all this hiding and dealing with interruptions can take its toll. Etting has plans to build a more detached office. She says it could cost upwards of $25,000. It’s enough to make you doubt the joys of spending the day in pajamas.
“Working from home can be wonderful,” says Stew Friedman, who directs the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School’s WorkLife Integration project. “It often isn’t because people don’t think through well enough what they need to do to make it work.”
Friedman says people switch back-and-forth frequently between a work role and family role when they have a home office. That can be confusing for younger kids or even a spouse. Friedman’s tip is to come up with a signal, something as simple as putting signs on the door.
“Red means ‘Do not enter, Mommy is doing something that cannot be disturbed.’ Yellow means you can knock, and green means you can come on in,” he suggests.
More and more people are dealing with the challenges of living and working at home. Friedman thinks that houses of the future may be built to suit both uses. For now, there’s a niche industry altering the houses of yesterday.
John Granahan’s construction company specializes in high-end soundproofing. Companies like his have seen an increase in demand for soundproofing home offices — 50 percent between last year and the year before.
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