Working from home: Navigating the pandemic’s new normal

Wharton management professor Nancy Rothbard freely admits that she’s hanging out in her kitchen while working from home during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. 

facade of apartment building at dusk with windows lit up

“I’ve had many meetings where my kids walk behind me and get a snack out of the cabinet,” she said. “It doesn’t bother me.”

That’s because Rothbard is a self-described “integrator,” a term she uses for people who don’t mind blurring the boundary between work and home. Integrators are the opposite of segmentors—people who have a strong desire to separate business from personal life. When segmentors work from home, they don’t lounge around in their yoga pants all day. They like to get dressed with a purpose and sit down to work in a dedicated space, such as a home office, preferably with a door that can help keep out dogs, cats, kids and spouses.

“In this new work-from-home reality that we’re living in, it’s particularly challenging for segmentors, people who like to keep a sharp line between work and home. We can’t do that right now, even if we want to. This is where the rubber hits the road, and our two worlds are colliding like crazy,” Rothbard says. “We have kids who are doing online school. They’re wandering into the room to get something. You’ve got a spouse or a partner who is also trying to get work done from home. Sometimes you have clashing conference calls. Sometimes you both need the high-definition video camera. ... These are the kinds of challenges that we inevitably are facing in the pandemic work-from-home reality.

“I’ve been looking at how people navigate the boundaries between work and home for many, many years, and this is a phenomenon that is both fascinating to me intellectually, but also I’m living it as well,” she says. “It has given a whole new meaning to living your research.”

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