Live/work sites

Now, every space seems to be a live/work space…

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index


In the old days, before 2020 came upon us, live/work spaces referred to a living unit, perhaps part of a warehouse or industrial building, usually in an urban setting, that had been converted, and officially recognized as a work space and a place for living.

These were usually artist-type studios with one part designated for a work or prep room of some sort and another for living. These were usually tiny, utilitarian and inexpensive.

Again that was before 2020.

Now of course, every space seems to be a live/work space.

There is no distinction, except perhaps in particular rooms – but barely even that.

No home, no coffee shop, no library or even grocery store is free from being claimed, or at least used for a work site, however momentarily.

In the old days, again, before 2020, a home was where you lived (and didn’t work), a coffee shop was where you drank coffee or met with friends (and didn’t work), a library was where you could look for books or other material, do research or attend a community meeting (and didn’t work) and a grocery store was where you shopped for food or other essentials (and didn’t work).

Notice the recurring theme there.

And parks. Don’t even bother going to parks. If the weather is decent, every picnic table seems to have briefcases and laptops all over it.

But now I see people working, having (Zoom) meetings or calls everywhere – at all times of day.

Everywhere is a live/work space.

“Home from work” makes no sense now. What does “work clothes” mean?

Zoom meetings are notorious for interruptions from kids and pets, but how about business attire for a Zoom meeting?

Dress clothes for the camera means dressing from the waist up.

Dress shirts and shorts or pajamas (if that) have become the new professional attire – if not fashion statement.

“Working remotely” has become a euphemism for working everywhere, all the time. Gone are long commutes for most of us, but instead of “going” to work, work follows us everywhere.

As with many things it seems, I’ve been ahead of the curve on this. I was an adjunct college instructor for more years than I’d ever want to acknowledge. My office was my car. I prepped for classes or corrected papers anywhere I could, yes, even coffee shops and grocery stores.

Once in a while I had an office, but I was rarely there and the work of a teacher is as close to 24/7 as any on-call worker.

It was a crazy schedule with nothing resembling a work/life balance. Little did I know that I was modeling what would become the dreaded “new normal” – the constant access, if not intrusion, of work.

No place, no time of day, is safe.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term “an idea whose time has come”.

Working remotely is an idea, a dream many of us have had for years, if not decades.

Working while traveling, on the road or between adventures, is something many of us have patched together, dreamed of for a generation – or more.

Reality has finally caught up with us.

To put it mildly, it doesn’t look the way we thought it would.

We always imagined those tied to the office as those wanting to be there. While we, the adventurous, creative types would express our inner selves and explore our genius in exotic settings with other innovators and entrepreneurs.

But in 2020, the office dwellers, (most of them at least) have been expelled from their cubicles and sent home, and we, (some of us at least) might hit the national parks or travel some, but we can’t leave our borders and even if we could, the term “hot spots” doesn’t refer to trendy clubs or resorts but to COVID infestations.

The dreaded cubicle might, after all, be the safest place available.

Especially if we could somehow leave our work there when we close the door.

But like teachers, for most of us in 2020, our work is never done. And there is no line, thin or even blurry, between work and private, individual life.

The whole world, from park to coffee shop, has become just another workplace.

Yes, wifi has “connected” us all, maybe more, and to a degree none of us could have imagined.

For some of us, getting “disconnected” is the ultimate release – or terror.

I’m not a digital “native” (born into the internet era), but even for me, the idea of being out of reach of wifi is unnerving, if not frightening. Even a few hours out of reach throws me off.

I’m a bit horrified at how tethered I am to both my device and the web in general. From GPS to counting my steps to documenting every encounter and life experience, our phones have become both the device of choice and the device of bondage, if not surrender, to the network, the system, the great singularity or whatever we want to call it.

Our devices, our homes and our schedules have become the mixing bowl where work, play, entertainment and refuge have become jumbled beyond recognition.

For many years the ultimate question upon meeting people has been “What do you do?”

For a while it looked like a lot of young people in particular did not like that question because they felt that no matter what they did for a living, they were more than their vocation.

But now, thanks to our near visceral level of connectivity, our identity, more than ever, is tied to our devices and any boundaries are blurred between work and home.

Would we go back? Would we even if we could?

WFH – coming to a neighborhood near you

The work from home (WFH) response has become a movement, and, according to a recent survey – – few of us want to go back.

Consider these findings;

Only 36% of respondents reported having a dedicated space for work in their homes, while nearly half work in their kitchens, living rooms or other areas around the house.

A stable internet connection is the #1 must-have for working from home, followed closely by having a proper desk and a suitable chair.

However, these seem to be the very things that workers are still missing in their home office setups: 31% of respondents still don’t have a desk, 31% are missing a good chair, and 27% lack the privacy they need during work hours.

Of those planning to make changes to their workspace, 58% are considering buying or renting a larger home.

Sound familiar?

Transitions, from moving to adopting a new exercise regimen, are always difficult.

The WFH movement is just another example of a shift impacting us all, even as it hits us all differently.

You might want to use another, quite similar, set of initials to describe what is going on, but, love it or hate it, WFH is here to stay.