Our coping strategies for a more pleasant everyday life at home
As sociologist Gerd-Günther Voß wrote back in 1998, "The world of work is undergoing a profound structural change."1 The current discourse on dissolution of boundaries, flexibilization and digitalisation shows that structural change is still ongoing and, 20 years later, is more topical than ever. Read more about the social influence and our "coping strategies" that can currently be observed in the form of cultural codes and narratives.
With digitalisation, traditional boundaries between work and private life are increasingly dissolving. The current topic of home office puts the icing on the cake of this fluid blending and dissolving of the professional and private spheres - or to put it in a nutshell, it broke all boundaries. For about a year now, this trend has been accelerated by the Covid pandemic. Many of us suddenly found ourselves in our own four walls and thus facing new challenges: what used to be a clearly defined space for privacy, family and recreation now has to meet many more diverse requirements. Our home has become a multifunctional space that combines office, school, daycare, gym/spa, lounging space, and much more. This has made our home a stage for everything.
All of this is not without impact – it is affecting us: new needs and desires are being awakened and surprising insights are surfacing. Overall, work has become more human – as many as 31% are less likely to feel embarrassed or ashamed when their private lives come out at work and 39% of respondents* are willing to be their full, authentic selves at work. This greater sense of well-being will lead to stronger working relationships and thus productivity in the long run.
Of course, the developments certainly have downsides – increases in domestic violence, neglected children and the resurgence of traditional gender roles are just some examples. The current situation is also particularly challenging for Generation Z: 60% of this generation – who are between 18 and 25 years old – say they are just surviving or downright struggling. Young people of this age are more likely to be single and at the beginning of their careers, which means they are more likely to feel the effects of isolation, struggle with motivation at work or lack the financial means to create a decent working space at home. Longer working hours, exhaustion, Zoom fatigue and the feeling of constant surveillance also lead to a mental imbalance which can in turn cause illness-promoting stress and depression.
Another phenomenon: the pressure to make the most of one’s 'free' time in order to reach one's maximum potential. This sounds good at first but can become very exhausting over time. We have to learn to do nothing every now and then and to celebrate "slacker culture". So, the following are a few "coping strategies" that we are currently observing in the form of cultural codes/narratives:
1. Adapt! – Designing multifunctional space
The home has to accommodate the rapidly growing demands of its inhabitants. If something doesn't fit, it has to be made to fit. Adaptation is the magic word: with a little flexibility, imagination and a talent for organization, the fluid transformation of rooms according to the needs of their occupants does not always run smoothly, but it does open up completely new possibilities and literally "space" for new experiences, thoughts and emotions within one's own four walls. In this way, the transformation of space helps us to deal with the change in our needs and hopefully to live a little more relaxed and stress-free. Another clever Adapt! idea to benefit from the ongoing shift to home offices: at the moment, some companies offer a separate, detached office for one’s own backyard.
Cultural World: Multipurpose Halls, Adaptation, Tiny House/Micro Living Movement Brands: e.g.IKEA, Rewe, Home 24, etc.
2. Declutter! – Set focus on what is really important
With all the uncertainty, change and chaos out there, we seek stability through order, structure, clarity and focussing on the essential things in life at home. Decluttering, cleaning and becoming aware of what really counts for you in your life – this is a central coping strategy that has accompanied us since the first lockdown and is visible, for example, in the form of long queues in front of recycling centres or quick sales on online exchange and second-hand platforms, as well as in numerous "decluttering" series (e.g. "Tidying up with Mari Kondo", Netflix).
Cultural world: Mari Kondo, minimalism, downsizing (Simply Living) Brands: e.g. Momox, Room in a Box, Ebay etc.
3. Get creative! – Creatively and humorously handling the crisis
When life presents us with challenges, our creativity and humour are two of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal to cope. Thanks to furlough, bored children and adults frustrated by monotony, we have done what brings us joy and variety and is good for us: we got going and became master artists, hobby chefs, crafting champions and florists. Our psyche thanks us.
4. Relax and Care! – Recharge your batteries, be mindful of yourself.
Home is still the place of relaxation, a safe space. Especially in demanding times, it's important to balance things out, recharge your batteries and take care of yourself. If we can't go to the yoga studio, meditation class or spa, it has to come to us. It doesn't take much to provide a little more balance and compensation. The most important prerequisite is to take one's needs seriously and create time for relaxation. This growing need can be observed culturally in offers such as "Mindful Minutes" (Podcast), coaching sessions such as Breath Work, instructions for DIY day spas, series "Headspace - A Meditation Guide" (cooperation Headspace and Netflix) or apps such as "Nerva" and "Calm".
Cultural world: Mindfulness, Wellness, Self-Care, New Spirituality Brands: e.g. Bosch Smart Home, Lush, Rituals
So, what can we learn from this as a society, but also as a company? One thing is certain: 43% of office workers want to continue spending more than half of their working day in home office. Therefore, this topic will remain relevant after the pandemic.2
For each of us: we need to set limits, be flexible (Wuwei "action through inaction") and be mindful of our resources – adaptation is a human strength, let's use it positively instead of exploiting ourselves.
Society/politics: The crisis is like a magnifying glass, it becomes clear what is not working and where the problems of a society lie. We need to make progress a) on equality, b) in relieving parents when a society asks them to work full-time or life circumstances require it, c) on the issue of domestic violence, d) we see how important schools and essential workers are. NOW, politics, society, organisations, and companies can set the course for a "preferable future" with a home office structure, and address issues such as the right to home office, working equipment, taxes/deduction of home office costs, workspaces, and seriously feasible flexible working time models.
Brands: support services that help us "survive" in home office e.g. save time and relax, delivery services like Gorilla/Lieferando/Rewe, curated services e.g. Hello Fresh. Socialisation offers: Virtual socialising e.g. apps like Houseparty/Clubhouse. Balancing offers: Fun e.g. GarticPhone/ TikTok and Mindfulness e.g. apps like "calm", "Headspace".
Business: With over 40 % of the global workforce* considering leaving their employer this year, a thoughtful approach to hybrid work will be key to attracting and retaining diverse talent. With so much change upending people over the past year, employees are re-evaluating their priorities, their home base and their entire lives. How companies handle the next phase of work - taking the positives and learning from the challenges of the past year – will impact who stays, who goes and who ultimately wants to work in the company. Through Covid, we have found that traditional notions of space and time are no longer bound to collaborate, so having the right equipment and trust in employees is essential. Tackling digital exhaustion should also be a high priority for all managers – meaning reducing staff workloads and living out a culture where breaks are encouraged and respected. Monetary support, whether on a larger or smaller scale, e.g. in the form of an allowance for lunch, office supplies, set signs of caring and gratitude. More flexibility of working hours for families with children, 4-day weeks, "Zoom free Fridays", 2-3 days of home office per week, no appointments in the lunch break and Breath Coaching, can for example also be inspiring approaches to solutions.
1 cf. Voß/Pongratz 1998: 473 2 Study "Intitative Chefsache" with 1000 employees, October 2020. * Respondents from Microsoft employees worldwide
Authors: Jennifer Jordan & Karolina Braun
As a senior cultural researcherJenniferis passionate about understanding and decoding current cultural and societal changes in depth in order to develop valuable insights and relevant recommendations for action on a wide range of issues. Her skills include semiotics and cultural analysis. She brings a background in consumer science and innovation management as well as experience as a consultant in brand strategy. firstname.lastname@example.org
As a communication designer,Karois always interested in new trends and cultural changes. Her work is characterised by socially relevant topics in order to help shape the future. At STURMundDRANG she supports us in the marketing and design area, but also gradually dives into project-related work. email@example.com