Here, There, and Everywhere

From basements to highrises, folding tables to gaming chairs, familial officemates to curious cat colleagues, six Googlers share their makeshift, out-of-office workstations

There’s a distinct sense of freedom that comes from working from home: commute-free, conference room-free, and occasionally pants-free living. But it’s also a major adjustment from the conveniences of an office. ”Working from home collapses so many issues onto themselves,” says Zachary Yorke. “You’re multitasking in physical and digital spaces, managing personal and professional relationships, and staying connected with your team, often all at once.” For nearly six years, Yorke has been studying the ways remote workers navigate the systems set up to make their lives easier, from video conferencing to digital whiteboarding. The tech has made incredible advances but being a remote employee is, quite simply, a lot. Here, Yorke and five more Googlers from across the USA offer snapshots of their day-to-day, out of the office, as rendered by collage artist Fenna Fiction.

A digital collage depicting some stretched and wiggly LEGOs, blue and white blobs, on top of a window frame that looks out onto trees and blue sky with a children's map in the top right corner.

Zachary Yorke, Staff UX Researcher

Working from📍Brooklyn, New York

The resourceful solution: “I used to work at my kitchen table in the wee hours before my kids woke up. Now that the kitchen is the loudest, messiest, most claustrophobic room in the house, I’ve moved my workspace—folding table, external keyboard, mouse—to my seven-year-old’s room.”

The soundtrack: “I block out noise with music that has no words, like Glenn Gould, The Album Leaf, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.”

The balance: “For collaborating, I lean heavily on showing things visually, and sharing files so folks on the other side can follow and interact. Prep makes a difference, as does having an achievable goal or agenda. For connecting, I make a point to carve out time to talk about non-work stuff—either at the start of existing meetings, or by setting up special times to chat with others I’d normally only see in the hallway at the office.”

A digital collage with a hand holding a stretched pink mug, reflected candles, a bluish blob, a distorted cat, and some plant-like accents.

Catherine Idylle, Interaction Designer

Working from📍San Francisco, California

The comfort zone: “I don’t have a desk or chair, so I mainly work from my dining table, and I’m too short for my feet to touch the ground so I cross my legs—which creates the perfect lap for a cat.”

The essentials: “A candle and plant to lift my spirits. Bluetooth headphones. A nice big bottle of water. Chapstick. Hand lotion.”

The changing needs: “I currently design for people with blindness and low vision on Lookout, so creating a product for them in the pandemic has made us think of focusing on user journeys that would be most beneficial at home, rather than outside or in public. What was even harder—but ultimately rewarding—was running a sprint for the Central Accessibility team. The sprint included those who had the disability we were designing for, both Googlers across the company as well as external participants. Sprinting remotely required creating a lot of bespoke materials beforehand and planning out every minute with the expectation that everything would take more time. (It did.) In the end, it was really fun collaborating from our homes; spacing out the sprint to be slower and more sustainable; and using remote work to push our guidelines on being as inclusive as possible of people with disabilities.”

A digital collage featuring a red and black gaming chair, distorted keyboards, electric outlets, and a repeating yellow form on a blue background.

Tushar Gupta, UX Engineer Intern

Working from📍Atlanta, Georgia

The set-up: “I live in the heart of Atlanta, amidst all the highrises and a good chunk of clouds. I spend the most of my day in an ergonomic gaming chair, looking at a dual display setup. For a change of scenery, I’ll join meetings from my couch, or write some code on the balcony.”

The moment(s) of zen: “Sometimes I people watch; sometimes I close my eyes while focusing on my breathing.”

The healthy habits: “Planning my day the night before has been really effective; knowing what to expect from my upcoming days allows me to avoid surprises and sudden deadlines. Following a routine has really helped me be productive: I wake up at the same time, freshen up, cook some breakfast, and put on some nice clothes. At the end of the day, there’s always going to be work left to do, but it’s been important to learn to set boundaries and make time for other activities that make me happy, like cooking and meditating.”

A digital collage featuring a distorted green notebook, black laptop, some stretched orange blobs, perhaps a lamp, and a small photo of flowers on a woodgrain and peach-colored background.

Eva Snee, Staff UX Researcher

Working from📍Seattle, Washington

The welcome distractions: “During the day, my nanny brings her five-year-old daughter to our house while she takes care of my two kids, who are eight and two. I work at a sit-to-stand desk in the basement, and am constantly hearing the kids running laps above me while screaming and playing and laughing, which I love.”

The chronicle: “In the office, I took a physical notebook with me to all my meetings, but it got left behind. I’ve since ordered another one, which I lovingly call my ‘pandemic work notebook.’ I still use it to keep notes from every meeting, but it has also helped me see the passage of time.”

The researched response: “As a researcher, my role is to help the product team understand what our users are going through, and to make sure our products support shifts in their needs, which we’ve done through every stage of the lockdown. For example: Through our research, we heard that everyday activities like grocery shopping were suddenly very stressful, with so many questions around safety measures like mask policies, curbside pickup models, delivery-only options, and senior hours. As consumers looked for answers through Search and Maps results, we helped get them the information they needed through our business messaging experience, which in turn freed up store employees from answering phones.”

A digital collage featuring a stretched blue blob, distorted bunny toy, reflected and stretched photo of a succulent, as well as a dog, with long wooden beams breaking through green blobs on a wooded background.

Justin Michael Smith, Senior Interaction Designer

Working from📍The Catskills, New York

The cabin: “Our cabin sits on 96 wooded acres, twenty minutes away from the nearest gas station. My office shares a small room in our cabin with a pair of bunk beds; our Boxador Milo can usually be found sleeping on the bottom bunk behind me, or on the floor near the window to catch some of the late afternoon sun. For a change of scenery, I will often step outside on my calls to chat when possible, and love to sit on a corduroy pouf in our living room for some variation.”

The view: “Directly in front of my desk is a large glow-in-the-dark star map which I like to look at while thinking. The door to my right leads outside, and—if I'm lucky that day—I’ll see a family of wild turkeys walking past or a mother deer and her two fawns which live nearby.”

The new flow: “I have found that communicating asynchronously has exceptional benefits. Rather than scheduling a meeting, my team and I instead share our work via email and comment as soon as we have the time. This is especially helpful for getting into the flow state and staying there without the need of context switching or jumping to chat or video.”

A digital collage with many reflected cats, some pink, red, and orange vases, perhaps a desk, some beige and maroon blobs, with a distorted view of a building in the background.

Jennifer Wang, Interaction Designer

Working from📍Kirkland, Washington

The tight squeeze: “I share the ‘office’ room of our apartment with my husband. He has to get by my desk to get in or out, and a few times he chose to crawl on the floor to avoid appearing in my video conferences; now we have hand signals for me to turn my camera off when he needs to get by. My cat Niku has met most of my colleagues, as he is usually on my desk, if not on my lap, and likes to jump in on my meetings.”

The (virtual) vibes: “I recently discovered the Cafe Music BGM channel on Youtube. The relaxing jazz live stream helps me concentrate and get creative juices flowing. I like to imagine that the other people watching the live stream are coworkers sitting in the same room with me.”

The evolving etiquette: “I’m always actively finding workarounds to be more considerate of others on my calls. I’ve formed the habit of pausing longer after finishing a sentence to leave space for others to chime in, and enjoy using emojis to give quick responses to presenters. I also find it less disruptive to hand write notes in meetings than typing and making keyboard noises while trying to speak. And thanks to bluetooth earphones, I’m also able to multitask; one of my most surreal moments was chopping veggies and stir frying during a lunchtime meeting.”

While our collective new normal is ever-evolving, finding a personal niche that feels productive can feel like a monumental task. While we may not be together at the office, we’re all helping each other make it work in the best ways we can.

How's working from home working for you? Show us your work-from-here, there, and everywhere workstations on Instagram or Twitter using #WFHeverywhere