New approach to work-life balance is Working Well

Being invited to take part in a prestigious design competition that celebrates transformative architecture of the home was the culmination of months of shared experiences and research into the stresses of homeworking.

But Box Architects’ ‘Working Well’ concept, which was submitted for The Davidson Award, turned out to be just the start of a mission to turn the house back into the home while embracing the realities of working remotely.

Working from home used to be something ‘other people’ did. Then came the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, and everyone was doing it. After months of homeworking and isolation, Box got together virtually to discuss the pros and cons. Many members of our team said they valued many aspects of working from home but missed close collaboration with colleagues, social interaction and direct feedback to work. They also revealed that the lack of separation between work and home life can be stressful and, at times, have an impact on mental wellbeing.

The research was widened out to include architecture students through our role as RIBA mentors. The results were similar. Furthermore, while students are at the start of their careers, we also recognised – through our partnerships with McCarthy Stone – that many older people are working, at least part-time, into so-called ‘retirement’. All of this will have an effect on the design of new homes, student accommodation and retirement development – sectors in which Box have considerable experience.

Of course, despite our role in a variety of residential developments, new homes are currently being delivered at a rate of less than 200,000 per year, compared with 29 million households in the UK. Existing housing stock will, therefore, form the majority for the rest of the century… which brings us back to the design solutions that can be adapted for existing homes, and to our ‘Working Well’ concept in particular.

“Lack of separation between work and home life can be stressful and, at times, have an impact on mental wellbeing.”

Working Well is a pod that allows users to define their own degree of separation from work and home life. A curved screen that can transition from clear to opaque creates an immersive workspace, with wraparound monitors and even augmented reality technology to enable real-time, virtual collaboration with colleagues. When not in use, the Working Well can be folded away into the wall, removing ‘work tech’ from view, or even slip down into the floor to free-up space for domestic living.

“The Working Well is a new approach to home working that could suit existing and new-build homes alike,” said Box associate Toby Harling, who worked (remotely, naturally) with Athens-based Box architect Thenia Patka on the project and award submission. “It offers a range of design options to suit all living situations and personal working preferences, but all options give the same shared virtual collaboration experience to ensure team members have the same sense of belonging and connection.”

The project led to a virtual workshop involving the Box team to explore the challenges of work-life separation on current and future projects. “In the future, we should all be Working Well,” added Toby.