Home Office Oasis
by Becky Alper
Telework was a hot mess at my house last Spring. I camped out all over our house including on the living room couch and at the side table in my preschooler’s bedroom. As my husband and I struggled to cobble together childcare duties, I got up extra early to work in the pre-dawn hours and logged off when the moon rose back up in the dark sky. My commute time “savings” was put back into taking care of kids instead of me. Telework was noisy, it felt chaotic, and frankly it was just downright unpleasant.
After my kiddos went back to daycare and our state’s shelter-in-place order expired, a whole new dawn of telework slowly emerged. Instead of buying a delicious (but expensive) latte on my way into the office, I perfected my home coffee-brewing technique (French press only, 200* F, medium roast). I started my day off with a bike ride to my kids’ child care center, and then could easily hop in my shower to freshen up before starting video calls. When we needed housework done, I could tell the technician “any time works!” instead of painfully rearranging my schedule to work from home on a particular day.
But the best part of telework for me was being able to garden. In prior summers, my pots would dry up in the blazing heat of summer after I had rushed off to the office and forgotten to water them. In pre-pandemic life, all my weeding and pruning and admiring of plants was left until after dinner, when I would dip my hands in the dirt while swatting mosquitos.
But this summer was different. It was wonderful. I could work from my patio and enjoy the view under my patio umbrella. On my breaks, I stepped away from my desk (I finally settled into a corner of my bedroom with a true home-office set up) to move around seedlings into sunny spots. I rearranged hostas and discovered Japanese ferns. I trimmed roses and tended bean shoots. As the summer wore on, I searched for hidden cucumbers on my vine at lunchtime. My days of Zoom calls and webinars were punctuated by the satisfaction of creating a little oasis.
As I reflect on working from home full-time this summer, it was wonderful to have greenery right at my fingertips. I’ve now brought some of those plants inside to decorate my home office. In fact, I just discovered that office plants have some great work benefits, including reducing stress and increasing productivity by 15%*. (So hint, employers – buy your employees plants as end-of-year gifts, not a snackbox.) With snow swirling around outside and some succulents on my desk, I can see remote work and me getting along for long while.