Show an ad over header. AMP

I am the FIRST

Who gets the home office? Couples butt heads

As the pandemic drags on — keeping millions of Americans teleworking, and countless students studying remotely — the tense dynamics once confined to the office have infiltrated people's houses and apartments.

Why it matters: Families are haggling over who gets prime workspace. Should it be the biggest breadwinner? In many homes, women are the ones who get stuck with less-than-ideal offices.


The big picture: The pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to working women — with nearly 2 million dropping out of the labor force, in many cases because they were disproportionately saddled with housework and child care duties.

  • The lack of access to office space is yet another hurdle making the pandemic harder for female workers.

"Women have become nomads," says Liz Patton, a professor of media and communication studies at UMBC and the author of "Easy Living: The Rise of the Home Office."

  • "There have always been spaces in the home that have been masculinized, like garages and basements and home offices," she says. "We already have ideas about who these spaces belong to, and so we default."
  • Most homes only have one office and limited places for quiet work. While men have set up shop in those spaces, women are wandering between the kitchen and the living room, with their laptops on one hand.
  • On top of that, women are often interrupted throughout the workday as they juggle work with other responsibilities like cooking or helping kids with homework.

What they're saying: "I threw out my neck working at the kitchen table on my laptop," says Lauren F., who works as a freelance marketing consultant. "My higher-earning male spouse took over my home office. It’s also summer, still no school. Which of us is called on to blow off work and prioritize the children?"

  • "All to say, my work suffered," she says. She eventually decided to stop working until the pandemic situation gets better. "I feel like I disappointed my client, and as a freelancer, I didn’t like risking my reputation like that."
  • But there's no end in sight. School reopening plans may be foiled by the Delta variant, and Lauren's husband's return-to-work date has been pushed back indefinitely.

What's next: With remote and hybrid work becoming the norm, firms will have to put more cash behind setting up home offices for all workers if they want to recruit and retain them as well as keep productivity up.

  • For workers with enough space for multiple offices in their houses, that might mean handing out company stipends for desks, chairs and monitors. For those without space, that could mean providing memberships to co-working spaces.
  • Companies also risk losing working parents if they don't offer flexibility or money for child care, as many people, especially women, can't effectively work from home due to kid responsibilities.
  • "Just like you have a right to space to work in the office when you sign a contract, we need that at home," says Patton.

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

Keep reading... Show less

Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

Keep reading... Show less

"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

Keep reading... Show less

What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories