Is work from home here to stay?
In the office of her Lakewood home, Jiordanne Kaine strikes a match, lights her three-wick lavender candle, softly plays her favorite motivational podcast, Happy Hour with Gretchen, and prepares to begin her workday. The room is charged with natural morning light from two large open windows, which allow refreshing fresh air to intertwine with the relaxing scent of lavender.
Settling into her swivel chair, Kaine feels peaceful and recharged after completing a fulfilling and leisurely morning routine. Clad in a matching black sweat set that looks professional enough over Zoom, blue light glasses and a pair of gold hoops – which she says she can’t work without – Kaine faces a white sit-to-stand desk, homing a black monitor decorated with a line of neon yellow sticky notes, which remind her of her focus for the day, and gets online.
Behind Kaine sits a bookshelf that proudly displays her college diploma and favorite books. On the floor below it is her dog, Cooper, whose only focus is to sleep like a bear fully in hibernation – his cave being a brown, round, fluffy bed – until his walk at lunch time.
Kaine, 24, began her full-time job as an associate account manager for Hyland Software in Westlake in May 2021 – during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is “grateful” that her work from home lifestyle allows for more quality time with herself and her dog each morning by avoiding a commute to and from the office.
“They are my mornings and I do what I need to do to feel ready for the day,” said Kaine. “I would feel more antsy knowing that I did not have time for myself in the mornings and if I did want time, I would have to wake up a lot earlier.”
Kaine is one of many adult Americans who have grown accustomed to their time working from home following the onset of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Working from home, or teleworking, looks to remain popular long after the pandemic is over. In a January 2022 Pew Research study, 61% of U.S. workers are choosing not to work from their workplace, and 64% of teleworkers say that working from home has made it easier to balance work and personal life.
Michael Horvath, an associate professor at Cleveland State University since 2010, has studied industrial organizational psychology for 25 years. He said work and personal life balance can differ from each person as they have different strategies of separating the two.
“Even before the pandemic— with most people not working from home— people organized their lives along a continuum ranging from segmentation and integration,” Horvath said.
Segmentation is when people like to keep work and home life separate, while integration is when their different life domains mix with each other.
“People differ a lot on whether they like to do one, the other or somewhere in between,” said Horvath.
According to him, some will be fine with having the people they live with drop in while taking work calls, while others will prefer to keep things separate.
“That may be harder to do [keeping things separate] in a hybrid workspace,” said Horvath. “Particularly for people who do not have the ability to create a separate space or have a greater share of responsibilities when it comes to car taking.”
Communicating with family members or those around you while you work from home to set clear expectations and boundaries is helpful suggests Horvath. It is difficult to assume how a hybrid workspace will affect everyone because each person will have a unique experience.
“It depends on what people like,” Horvath said. “You will be more satisfied in a hybrid workspace if it can be tailored to your boundary management preferences, and your preference for how you interact with others in the workplace may impact job satisfaction based on job, personality and preference.”
Katie Hellmann, 23, is a research and insights fellow for the Cleveland Guardians who works hybrid. She prefers being in the office to socialize with her team, but also cherishes work-from-home days where she has more freedom with how she spends her downtime during the workday.
“I like to exercise during my lunch break on my work-from-home days because I don’t have to worry about going back to the office sweaty,” said Hellmann. “I beat the gym rush and I have my whole evening free.”
Back in her home office, Kaine returns from her lunch break, satisfied with her homemade meal of a steak and rice fajita bowl, and Cooper is ready for another nap after spending some time outside. Kaine adjusts her desk to stand mode and sets out her under-the-desk treadmill to avoid the post-lunch slump while finishing her day.
“The choice to be in person, work from home or be hybrid is what I think everyone has always wanted,” said Kaine. “They’ve wanted a choice because when it’s a choice, things feel better.”