Is working from home Covid-19’s silver lining?
It was not so long ago that mass gatherings, remember that concept, were being organised to protest against inaction on saving our environment. Now the mass gatherings are on hold and in their place, with so many across the world confined to home, we are seeing the skies clear, the smog lift and fish can once more be seen in the calm waters of Venice’s canals. Dare we think, as we sit under the cloud of the coronavirus pandemic that this cloud may have a glimmer of a silver lining.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. If we turn our gaze briefly away from the global pandemic are we seeing the birth of a different way of living…and working? One with less travel, less commuting and more home-based working that could provide a more sustainable future.
We are, of course naturally social beings. We thrive on company and interaction and my work, like many others, revolves around meetings, discussions and team work. How do new recruits become trained and gain experience if we only work independently. How can the experience of seeing others doing their job and learning from them be achieved except by being together in a common work environment.
I have no doubt that there will be a significant return to collective office working once this crisis has receded but will this experience spawn a new enthusiasm for home working?
Like many I have tried to find a quiet space in my home to work while my children log on to their morning online exercise class and we try to find a way of coexisting. Through the wonders of technology I have been invited to virtually visit homes, as well as seeing close ups of nasal hair, of many of my work colleagues and clients as we connect on one of the many video conferencing platforms. It is revealing the different spaces that people have carved out to get some space. Some more conventional options are the dining table or a bedroom while others have set up on a half landing, in the hallway, under the stairs or even in a cupboard. Some are dark and gloomy, others bright. Some are private, some are open and very, very shared. There are even some in this time of open plan family kitchen dining spaces that have a separate study!
What can we learn from this? How can we design our homes, our offices and our communities to provide effective opportunity to work remotely, gather together, share, live and coexist while travelling less, polluting less and maybe, even maybe, creating a more sustainable environment.
As an architect I see the necessity of addressing climate change and the potential benefits of home working as a great opportunity that should influence the way we design our homes, neighbourhoods and communities. We are living through a mass experiment. Let us take the opportunity to explore what works, what doesn’t and integrate the lessons we learn into new and inventive design approaches.
Working from home can be stressful, but that does not mean you can’t find the silver lining.
By Ben Williamson, Associate Director at PRP.
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is a long-established architectural firm with over 100 awards to its name. An interdisciplinary practice, PRP offers a full range of design and building services including masterplanning, urban design, landscape and development consultancy. Few know as much about housing design and urban regeneration as PRP.
With over 55 years’ experience to draw on, PRP has established an exemplary track record in the design and delivery of homes and places of varying scale, complexity and diversity. PRP employs more than 250 staff across its London, Manchester and Surrey studios. https://www.prp-co.uk/