When home is the workplace

A woman is sitting at a dining table typing on her laptop. When home is the workplace.Computers and internet provided the opportunity for some people to occasionally work from home. That was pre-Covid-19 when Home was still Home. But now Home is the workplace as well as home. It’s also been a place for education, long day care, and a place to stay safe. For some, home is all four at once: workplace, school, childcare centre and safe haven. Open spaces have taken on an increased value as a means of escape from the same four walls. But not everyone has easy access to open space, public or private.

Our homes were never designed for any of this. Not on a long-term basis anyway. Then there are the institutional homes – the aged care industry has not fared well in providing a sense of home for its residents. So we need a complete re-think about what it means to be “going to work at home”. 

A paper from Ireland looks at the impact of the pandemic on everyday lives and the need to adapt the built environment. The authors argue that: 

“There is now a key opportunity to implement universal design, to allow the best possible use of space, to enable everyone to live, work and socialise safely and equally.”

The authors discuss issues related to the public realm, housing design, and green infrastructure, and access for people with disability. They conclude that the pause mode caused by Covid-19 gives an opportunity to improve the lives of city dwellers. 

The title of the paper is, The impact of Covid-19 on our relationship with the built environment. 

From the abstract:

This article aims to explore the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the built environment in Ireland. It considers how our homes might suit the future needs of all citizens, particularly the needs of the most vulnerable members of society.

The growth in ‘working from home’ has highlighted architectural issues such as space within the home and the local community, as well as the importance of public and private open space. Covid-19 has exposed the most vulnerable, and the nursing home model is under scrutiny and will need to be addressed. 

The Covid-19 pandemic offers the potential for architects to provide a vision of a built environment that addresses biosecurity issues, accessibility and climate change. Architects need to re-purpose towns, villages, and urban areas, and develop new housing typologies which will integrate living and working within the one dwelling, and promote a sense of community in local neighbourhoods. Adaptable, flexible buildings alongside usable and accessible public spaces are necessary to meet change.