"The articifical separation of houses and work creates introlerable rifts in people's inner lives."
Christopher Alexander is one of my heroes. His seminal work The Timeless Way of Building is more than a study of architecture: it’s about building things to support a way of life that has true quality about it. His work has huge relevance to software developers as we seek to create software that is alive and growing, but is generally applicable to the patterns of human life as a whole.
His arguments in favour of “Scattered Work” really struck a chord with me. Putting the workplaces outside of the home environment and into a centralised location creates suburbs that are dead during the day, and soul-less business districts where children rarely venture. Yet this is how most of our cities are designed. This puts an enornmous pressure on the dreaded “tea time”: when the bread-winner comes home through the door at six o’clock it’s the time that they’re most tired and distracted, their children want to see them the most and need the most attention, and their partner needs the most help. Small wonder that this combination often generates arguments.
Alexander advocated scattering the workplaces amongst people’s homes so that “each home is within 20-30 minutes of hundreds of workplaces.” However, since he wrote his book back in the 1970’s we have had a massive technology shift which has blown the hole out of the centralised workplace. Now more than ever it’s possible to combine work and home life.
I can testify to this: I am loving working from home. The combination of focused Pomodoros for work, siting my desk next to french doors out to my garden, using my 3-5 minute breaks to hold my baby and do a few small chores has taken the pressure off our busy lives. Thank God for the Internet and remote working.
If you go into an office everyday, is there a way of making it easier to work from home? If you run a company, how can you make your workplaces more decentralised and local? Do you really need that big office, with countless drones scurrying around in front of you, for anything else other than your own ego?