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Beyond just being me, I am a wife, mother and entrepreneur constantly on the hunt for new ideas on how to live my best life. Visit me at www.clementsinteriors.com.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Home Office: A Cultural Norm.

Long ago, in a not so far away place, I pondered whether or not to allocate a small space at the bottom of the basement stairs in our first semi-detached home for a pseudo “home office”.  At the time the concept of needing a specific place in your home dedicated solely to office work was relatively uncommon.  Unless you were a lawyer or a doctor with a home based practice, the concept of working regularly from the place you lived was largely an idea that people only spoke of.
At the time I was overwhelmed at the thought of trying to work full-time while raising in any sort of reasonable fashion, a challenging baby.  Email had just been introduced in our office, the internet was a new resource we were to consider and I had just received my first laptop at work, though it still required a docking station.  Enjoying the relative freedom my new computer allowed me, I went to my boss to plead my case in favour of working from home.  After being laughed out of his office, it occurred to me that the mere notion of not appearing in the office on a daily basis was perhaps too much for him to bear.  How would he get in touch with me?  How could he know for certain I was working?
Zoom ahead 15 or so years and at least that many wrinkles and you’ll find an office is not only common in homes, but that full blown businesses like my own are often run from the house. 
It’s interesting to me that most average homes built prior to the mid 80’s do not have a space allocated ANYWHERE for an office.  There’s the front hallway, the living room, the laundry room, the kitchen and 2 or 3 bedrooms.  Perhaps home builders prior to this time did not even consider the nature of one’s home to be such that it needed to accommodate for office work.  It might be difficult for some to imagine or remember, but there was a time when everything moved slower and working from home was all but unheard of.  Stores were closed on Sundays, people cooked BBQ over charcoal and work stayed in the office, which wasn’t in your home.  The term “don’t bring your work home with you” was an important value to which people held firm.
Post 1980’s home builders typically added some form of a home office in a centrally located space on the main floor, perhaps signifying a growing importance of the role of work in our lives.  Those who owned older homes looked to re-purpose a spare bedroom or a room in the basement solely for office use.  Over the years I have designed some sort of built-in to hold full libraries, filing systems, computer networks and book collections in almost every private home I have worked in.  The office migrated and took up permanent residence in our homes.   
Now well into the 21st century, the notion of not bringing your work home is a concept all but forgotten.  In fact, people bring their work home, on vacation and sometimes even to bed.  But as technology pushes us to work faster, leaner and smarter it’s been my experience that those who work from home are shedding off the confines of their home office and with the great strides of technology, are requiring less space not more. 
In fact, the kitchen office which has space enough for a laptop, a few hanging files and some storage for family paperwork is an idea whose time has likely come.  Work has drifted once again and is now out of the home office and taking root in the heart of our houses.  A centrally located work space allows for any family member to work while keeping the family computer(s) in a safe and easy to monitor common area in the home.
The nature of the home office spurred by changes in communication has seemingly undergone a cyclical metamorphosis.  Home designs while still fundamentally family-centred have been influenced by technology by allowing work to become more pervasive in our lives than ever before. 
I have to admit that when I close my eyes and picture the house of my dreams, the office is nowhere in my view; it’s not in the kitchen nor even a separate room.  But since work is still as important as ever, it might as well be somewhere it’s convenient for me to keep a watchful eye on it while I tend to our family’s busy life.

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