For all the talk and debate about returning to the office in-person, there are also the millions of employees who have chosen to work permanently from home—and many others who have quit their jobs in search of full-time remote work. While remote work is a benefit for many employees—offering flexibility, balance and autonomy—some inequities from the office pervade.
While working from home, men are more likely to have prime office real estate.
In a 2020 study of remote employees, men were overwhelmingly more likely than women to have their own office space while working from home; half of men had a home office, while less than a third of women did.
Women were more likely to work in common spaces, including the kitchen, living room or bedroom.
"There have always been spaces in the home that have been masculinized, like garages and basements and home offices," Liz Patton, a professor of media and communication studies at UMBC and the author of "Easy Living: The Rise of the Home Office said to Axios. "We already have ideas about who these spaces belong to, and so we default."
Home offices weren’t equal before remote work became mainstream; now that people are permanently working from home, the gender gaps are glaring.
Defaulting into these gendered spaces isn’t just inconvenient; it has the potential to damage our ability to work. It means we may be that much less productive. It could also mean that we don’t have the right boundaries between work and home.
For working mothers, not having a private office space can also mean picking up more childcare and household responsibilities. 67% of women in couples where both partners work full-time from home said that they do the majority of the housework, including cooking and cleaning.
If you feel like you don’t have prime office real estate while working from home, here’s how to fix it.
Unfortunately, those you work at home with—whether a partner, roommate, friend or child—may not know that they’re taking up prime office space while you’re left to float around. Start by having a discussion about where everyone’s working and how it’s affecting your work. You could be feeling less productive, more cramped, further overwhelmed or even crowded. Maybe the current work situation makes you feel like you don’t have a quiet place to gather your thoughts. Or maybe you work in a common room, where you’re constantly bombarded with distractions.
There may be pushback, especially from people who have gotten accustomed to their fancy work-from-home space. Make it clear that you’re not necessarily trying to take their space; instead, you’d like to discuss creating one like theirs for yourself.
Not many living spaces have two traditional offices, but you don’t need a traditional office to have a work-from-home space. Find a spot in your home that will be your space and your workspace only. This means that no one else gets to use it during the workday; it also means all of your work materials stay there when the workday is done. This will help you set better boundaries with both the people you’re living with and your work on the whole.
One of the best parts of a work-from-home office is the door—one you can shut when you really need privacy or have to hop on a Zoom meeting. Whether your dedicated workspace has a door or not, set up a system that tells everyone you’re working around that you cannot be disturbed. Maybe it’s a door, a curtain or even just a little “Do Not Disturb” sign. Whenever that door is shut or the sign goes out, no one should bother you.