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Your “Work Self” is Gone Now That Your Coworkers Have Seen Your Apartment

Your “Work Self” is Gone Now That Your Coworkers Have Seen Your Apartment

In the last month, I’ve shown a lot of people the inside of my home. I’ve invited my therapist into my tiny backyard, where she commented on my raised bed (and finally met my two dogs). I’ve caught up with a friend quarantined abroad while sitting cross-legged on the floor of my bedroom, surrounded by a little nest of clutter and laundry. And I’ve joined writing groups from my desk in my attic, which I’m now realizing is not quite as tidy when viewed from my laptop camera’s perspective. 

These encounters are, of course, all taking place on the video conferencing platforms to which so much of our professional lives—and nearly all of our social lives—have been relegated for the several weeks. On Zoom, FaceTime, and Hangouts, we try to replicate spending time with our friends and family, those who’ve already seen our homes (and maybe even our clutter-nests). But we also allow little glimpses of our private selves to those with whom we might not ordinarily share it. Zoom calls can feel like a low-key treasure hunt of subtle clues about who our professional peers and colleagues really are, when viewed from a perspective we may not normally have access to: the coworker not at their desk or office, but in their natural habitat, surrounded by the quotidian stuff of domestic life. 

There’s the quiet, voyeuristic pleasure of creeping on one another’s decor decisions, but in the context of work, it’s about more than just measuring up who has an expensive couch or good taste in window curtains. In an office, colleagues with whom we don’t otherwise interact can seem like two-dimensional characters who exist only on weekdays from 9 to 5. When we’re peering into each others’ private spaces, though, everyone suddenly seems so much more human. 

Square Foot, a commercial real estate company based in New York, has about 65 people working in its office, all of whom began working from home in mid-March. Joshua Vickery, the company’s CTO, says that ever since then, he’s been on video calls “more or less constantly” throughout the day. Before, if a colleague was working from home, Vickery says they’d normally choose to dial in to a conference by phone rather than by video (or even turn their video off). That’s changed in the last month.

“It definitely shifts the boundaries of what we do and do not share with each other,” he says. “There are people who have very carefully selected where they take calls from at home, but that’s the minority.” Recently, one of his colleagues called in from her childhood bedroom, where rows of equestrian medals are on display. “Once someone caught on that they were there, she showed them off. And we had a new hire who’s a current equestrian, so they connected over that.” 

Alisa Cohn, a start-up coach based in New York, works from home and normally takes her calls in front of a distinctive red painting, which her clients frequently comment on. Cohn, who left New York on the eve of the pandemic, is now thinking about how to work with her new surroundings (she even has a green screen). “I’m looking at what’s behind me, and it’s not perfect—but at least there’s not dirty laundry,” she says. She’s seen some of her clients take calls from their laundry rooms, dens, and, in the case of one young tech startup founder, a parent’s house.

“It’s great, and it’s homey, and it definitely humanizes him,” she says. “I’ve also now met a number of my clients’ kids, who wander into the space. There’s something really wonderfully humanizing about that, and very ‘we’re all in this together’ about that.” Cohn thinks it’s endearing for personal effects to be included in a call’s background, as long as the effect is neat and intentional. (Oh, and also work-appropriate. “I did hear that someone did a video call with an employee who had some off-color paintings in the background,” she says. “Let me just say: not recommended.”) 

Seeing a colleague’s toddler or golden retriever wander into the frame is one of the few sources of pure, delirious joy we can hope for these days, and it’s also an unignorable reminder that our colleagues have lives beyond the context of the workplace. (An eternal shout-out here to BBC interviewee Robert Kelly, whose children Kool-Aid Manned their way into his home office during a live interview and instantly became beloved by the internet.) I think catching a glimpse of a coworker’s terrarium collection, or a boss’s framed concert posters, or an intern’s powerlifting trophies, could have a similar effect. A professional’s cubicle might offer a few highly curated clues to what their lives are like after clocking out, but nothing feels more intimate than peering into someone’s home and seeing the ephemera they choose to fill it with. 

Unsurprisingly, there is (as of now!) little research on whether video calls from home have any impact on workplace and team dynamics. But research does seem to show that bringing more of our full selves into the workplace can benefit us by giving us more of a sense of control over our own identity, rather than feeling like we’re juggling distinct versions of ourselves at work versus at home. Maryam Kouchaki, an associate professor of management and organizations at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, is behind some of that research. When I asked her how that might extend to our current work-from-home dynamic, she speculated that people may be integrating more of their work and personal identities. “On average, I expect more humanization, more empathy, and cooperation,” she says. 

John Kello, a professor of organizational psychology at Davidson College whose research specializes in the science of meetings, is learning the ropes of Zoom just like everyone else. Video conferencing, he says, comes with a bevy of challenges that can result in less engaged colleagues—but he can see how the dynamic could yield better cooperation, too. “I’m not sure just how inter-person perceptions might change, but we do get to see colleagues more in their at-home mode than their at-work mode… it can be humanizing, I guess,” he says. “I could see members of other groups getting a warmer view of each other as a result of the communication-from-home process.” (That empathy, he adds, might also come from everyone clumsily learning the ropes of a new-to-them technology together, and helping each other out along the way.) 

While it might feel like we’re all in the same boat, there are drawbacks to the sudden expectation that every nonessential working professional reveal little slices of their domestic spaces to colleagues, as Kyle Chayka wrote about in Curbed. For one, it can feel invasive. A lot of people are already expected to treat work like “family” and make themselves available 24/7; can’t domiciles be one last safe haven from work? (Also: I’m already working; do I really have to tidy my space, too?) For another, it can throw inequalities into stark relief. As a friend remarked to me recently, it’s hard to feel like a team player for a company issuing pay cuts when one’s manager is conferencing in from what is very clearly an impressive vacation home.

When I can’t meet someone in-person, I normally conduct my interviews on the phone. On those calls, I try to get down to business quickly; sometimes I might even write out in advance what I hope to say at the beginning of the call for efficiency’s sake, so I’m not fumbling for words or filling the space with awkward small talk. But when I spoke with Vickery, it was, appropriately, on Zoom.

Before the start of our call, perhaps betraying my own hypothesis, I arranged my laptop’s camera to show little personal effects, beyond some framed artwork and a white wall — my own grasp at “keeping things professional.” Within fifteen minutes, my dog had ambled into the frame and started scratching at the rug (because no one laughs at stiff formality and curation like animals do), and by the end of the call, Vickery was introducing me to his wife and their new kitten. If that’s part of our “new normal,” I don’t hate it.  

Published at Tue, 28 Apr 2020 12:00:00 +0000

These Space-Saving Wall Mounted Desks are Just What Your WFH Setup is Missing

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.

Just because you live in a small space doesn’t mean you can’t have an efficient and organized work area. Simply getting a desk is one of the best ways to solve the non-existent home office conundrum. But if you’re short on space, your at home version of the C-suite doesn’t have to include an oversized computer table or giant chair. The right solution for you might actually be a wall-mounted desk. Also known as floating desks, these shelf-like set ups give you the workspace you need without imposing on your limited floor space. 

You can always DIY your own desk. But if time is of the essence or instant gratification is more your thing, buying a sleek model that folds down from the wall or picking out a small desk that’s deep enough and also takes up little to no floor space is the answer. While certainly convenient, the wall-mounted desks available these days are also ultra stylish. Many of them even sport features like mini cabinets and sliding hidden compartments that will make your WFH situation so much better.

Wall-mounted desks can be installed in nearly any room, and while providing a sturdy surface to work is their main purpose, they can easily double as a dining table or extra storage spot should you need it. If your home is at full capacity but you’re not willing to compromise your work environment, check out our favorite 12 floating desks.

1. Murray Wall Mounted Desk 

Like a Murphy Bed but just in desk form, this space-saving model provides plenty of room to work, but it also folds back up against the wall when you’re done using it. The little cabinet up top is handy for storing office supplies and other items. You can even top the entire unit with plants or photos so it really feels like an office. 

Buy: Murray Wall Mounted Desk, $299.00 from Urban Outfitters

When you’re off the clock, this cool wooden desk folds back up into a compact rectangle against your wall. But if you’re in need of a dining table and desk, you’ve found your perfect match. You can keep it out in the open to take you from work to dinner—and even use the shelves for wine glasses or linens.

Buy: Ebern Designs Dickey Floating Desk, $206.99 $185.99 from Wayfair

3. Way Wick Wall-Mounted Drop-Leaf Dining Table

The minimalist design of this desk won’t overwhelm your space, but it still offers you ample surface for your laptop, notes, and coffee mug. Folding down against the wall, you’ll barely notice your desk when you’re not using it. A desk like this also makes forgetting work over the weekend that much easier.

Buy: Way Wick Wall-Mounted Drop-Leaf Dining Table, $94.99 from Wayfair

This IKEA shelf is only 11 inches deep, but perfect for a laptop. Plus it has drawers to help keep your desktop clear. Use it either above an existing desk for extra storage, or on its own for the perfect small space solution.

Buy: Ekby Shelf Bar, $51.49 from IKEA

A desktop is one of the components of the String wall shelving system. It can be combined with the system’s brackets and shelves to create an attractive workspace/bookshelf combination. The desktop alone starts at $165, and you will need to buy the other components separately.

Buy: String Work Desk, $165 from Finnish Design Shop

6. Wooden Mallet Wall Desk

For the truly space conscious, this petite workstation takes up no more space than a picture frame, but can support up to 20 pounds when anchored to the wall properly.

Buy: Wooden Mallet Wall Desk, $141.80 from Amazon

Okay, so this desk does cheat a bit by touching the floor, but it still has the same minimal footprint and unobtrusive styling. It also comes in a 96″ high version with two extra shelves.

Buy: Stairway White Desk, $349 from CB2

8. Driftwood & Platinum Elfa Wall-Mounted Desk

9. Blu Dot Wonder Wall Desk

This wall-mounted desk by Blu Dot is its newest version. It features a compartment in the back for storing cords and comes in this gorgeous walnut color.

Buy: Blu Dot Wonder Wall 2.0 Desk, $799.00 $639.20 from 2Modern

10. MASH Studios LAX Series Wall Mounted Desk

Crafted out of English walnut wood, this desk is what minimalist dreams are made of. It’s composed of three built-in shelves, and its profile and trim really help to carve out a pop-up office space. A sleek sliding panel also allows you to change which shelf you’d like to keep covered, so you can store items safely and easily.

Buy: MASH Studios LAX Series Wall Mounted Desk, $792.00 from 2Modern

This wall desk folds out for a laptop workspace and closes right back up into a stylish little cupboard. There’s a cut out for cords too, and the cabinet on the right side has enough room to store a small selection of essential office supplies.

Buy: Covert Floating Desk, $499 from Crate&Barrel

12. Royal System Shelving Unit A With Desk Shelf

And finally, if you’re looking to shell out a little more cash for a floating desk, there’s the lovely Royal System from DK3, available through Design Within Reach.

Buy: Royal System Shelving Unit A With Desk Shelf, $1,195 from Design Within Reach

Published at Tue, 28 Apr 2020 03:47:35 +0000