Working from home

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Blaise Pascal, Pensées

Carl Holsoe, Woman in an Interior, © Sotheby's / akg-images
Carl Holsoe, Woman in an Interior, © Sotheby’s / akg-images

With our restless souls forever luring us outside where we could get into all kinds of trouble, leaving the house would seem to be the source of all evil to a philosopher writing in the 17th Century.

But what would Blaise Pascal have said about 21st Century technology and the opportunities given to us by a fast internet connection, powerful servers and Skype? Could he have foreseen that we would find ways of communicating, working, studying, shopping, feeding and entertaining ourselves while staying in our own four walls?

Of all the pros and cons associated with working from home, I have found many of them to be true. Yes, it’s liberating, saves you a costly and lengthy commute, lets you do your job in your pyjamas, all that.

Bluestocking”, drawing, undated, by Albert Hendschel © akg-images
Bluestocking”, drawing, undated, by Albert Hendschel © akg-images

And yes, it’s also isolating, monotonous and a little abstract. The goings-on in the office are so far removed that they do not touch you. The things you pick up just by being on site, such as who is in a meeting and therefore can’t take your call, what your colleagues are dealing with at any given time, who just booked a holiday, or whether there are leftover cupcakes in the fridge – this is information you will just have to do without. As well as the weekly meetings, the insider jokes, the lunchtime walks.

Of course you can still go for a walk – and I highly recommend it, because our bodies are not designed for sitting all day – but it won’t be the same, it will only remind you that you are elsewhere. The streets are different, the language is different. Even the weather is different (coming from London, mostly a good thing!).

“Madame Vuillard at her desk” © akg-images
“Madame Vuillard at her desk” © akg-images

After almost 4 years at the akg London office, I now do my job from Vienna, Austria. Spending the majority of time in my own four walls made me think about my surroundings, and how to create the ideal work and home space for myself. For this blog post, I thought I’d share some paintings and photographs of women in their homes, there is a larger selection of images on our searchable website for you to enjoy. These images remind me that our chosen surroundings are always also an expression of who we are, by choice or by destiny, and most certainly in art.

Who doesn’t love home stories in magazines? Touring friends’ new places or peeking in their bookshelves? Seeing how different our home can feel when we rearrange things differently, or finding that perfect piece of furniture that seems to pull together all the existing elements?

Wanting to create the perfect surroundings is only natural. Nothing beats coming home to what we love – family, pets, a warm meal, peace and quiet – after a long trip with heavy bags or a busy day running errands about town. We can kick up our heels and recharge our batteries at home. A senseless endeavour from a philosopher’s point of view, for the place that we start from is also the end of each day’s journey. But in order to return, you must leave; and the freedom to do so is the thing that can turn a simple room into a prison – or a home.
It seems we are perfectly capable of staying quietly in a room alone, as we long as we are free to leave.

Woman on the telephone, circa 1950 © akg-images / Paul Almasy
Woman on the telephone, circa 1950 © akg-images / Paul Almasy

To mix things up a little, I move around. Working from home doesn’t mean always setting up the laptop and notebook in the same corner, or even staying in the flat. I can have a different view every day by turning the chair, or by working in a café or a friend’s garden. As someone who’s spent a lot of time dreaming of living in other countries, actually living in other countries, and still missing the comfort of home, I’m thinking – perhaps this suits me best of all.

If you like these images, please have a look at this larger selection of images of women at work at home on our searchable website.