A recent blog from MTP Architects up in Berkeley provided me with the spark for my latest topic. Their blog had to do with the impact being made on our work and home environments as a consequence of developments in “cloud” technology.
Although there’s been plenty of media buzz about the cloud, the subject is far from exhausted. In this post I want more specifically to take a glance at how it will affect life at home. It’s no small subject and worthy of a lot more attention than possible in a brief post. So this will necessarily be only a nudge in that direction, but, I think, an important nudge.
First a quick look at what the cloud is, for those of you not yet familiar: the cloud in its simplest terms, is a place to store digital data “out there” rather than on a cumbersome, unportable desktop. It’s the impetus behind the rapid rise in the use of hand held devices such as smart phones and tablets, not to mention the galaxy of yet to be released new devices.
What much of the current conversation about the cloud boils down to is the increased flexibility of options made available to us about where we enter into the digital universe.
The cloud is the single biggest thing right now affecting that place of entry. Because of the cloud, that portal is not only becoming ever more portable, but our access to an ever expanding amount of information continues to grow as well.
One of the single biggest ramification of this development is on how it will affect our perception and experience of the place we call home.
Home has been and will continue to be where we retreat to as a place of refuge and renewal. For most it’s traditionally been the place we retreat to after a day at work done somewhere else. It’s where we go, usually each day, to renew ourselves. Outside of work it’s where we spend the majority of our time.
And yet, what’s rapidly evolving for many because of the flexibility offered by these new devices made possible by cloud technology, is the decreasing importance of working at a fixed place away from home.
More and more we bring our work home, either occasionally or exclusively. And even then we’re not restricted to just those options. With our handheld devices we can also work on the move, choosing any location that suits. But either way, home, more and more, is becoming the new base of operations for our livelihood.
Again, this may not be fresh news for many. However, what may not have yet fully entered everyone’s consciousness is just how much this shift away from a distant workplace into the home will alter our experience of home as a place where we return to reground ourselves, to re-enter our other life.
Home as a place to kick back, to return to ourselves, will be challenged by the requirements and demands of work as we bring it ever further into our personal lives.
Some will try to adapt existing lifestyles to accommodate this shift. Some will succeed more than others.
Working at home will place a strain on many of those who share space with partners and family members. Because we usually need breaks from each other, working at home can increase tensions and gnaw away at relationships.
We also need breaks from the routines of work. We need the stimulus of the new, of a change in scenery. Some more than others need interaction with people outside the home. We all benefit in our work from the cross-fertilization of ideas that in the past has been more of a possibility when working away from home. This need will not go away, but there are ways to partially, at least, satisfy them from a home based workplace.
By and large I think the lure of not having to commute to a distant place of work, routinely, day in and day out, five days a week, every week, will entice an increasing number of people as the option becomes more available.
What will happen, as more time is spent at home mixing work with home life, is that the profile of our needs will evolve and our priorities will shift.
If we’re going to deal with this trend in a way that enhances our lives across the board, we will need to find a path. Instead of moving half blindly into the awaiting pitfalls of working at home, or worse yet, rejecting the option outright without giving it sufficient thought, wouldn’t it be smarter to approach it thoughtfully?
No question about it, we’re rapidly on our way into this new phase of human history. A smart decision, I’m convinced, would be to accept it and then try to master the transition.
Our basic priorities regarding the places we call home – the way we want to live our lives there – need to be examined and, if necessary, revised.
We need to form a picture of what life might look like when our homes become our primary workplace. Benefits need to be weighed against liabilities with an eye toward avoiding the latter while searching for ways to improve the quality of life. I think it’s important to not compromise by adapting down to less rewarding outcomes.
Not easy, perhaps, but important and worthy of consideration. And possible. Your quality of life is at stake in this matter and what you make of it is in your power to master.
In any case, working at home will continue on as a real option for more and more people. Dealing with it, either beforehand when it’s easier or later when it becomes more difficult, will be unavoidable once making that transition is decided upon.
Yes, many will not want to mix work with home life. But more and more will. And, for those of you that do, outside help could be of benefit in making the transition successful. There are those of us out here in the wings with expertise in improving home environments who can ease that passage and help make that transition a smoother journey.