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Photo illustration by Sarah Greenberg

How working from home changed our relationship to cleaning

This advertising content was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and our sponsor, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.

It’s an undeniable truth that all remote workers have to contend with: when your home is also your office, you can’t escape the piles of unopened mail on the table, dirty dishes in the sink, or dust bunnies in the corner. Cleaning quickly becomes part of the experience of working from home: stressing that your boss can see the unmade bed in the background of a video call, forcing yourself to concentrate on the day’s deliverables despite the clutter on your desk. No wonder we’re anxious to find ways to save time and energy with cleaning tools that do the work for you.

It’s a stark contrast from working from an office full-time. In the Before Times, no one cared how clean your home was because, well, they never saw it — and if your space was a mess, you could at least escape it for eight hours of the day. Now, working remotely means your professional life is intertwined with all the detritus of your home — toddler snacks, loose scrunchies, abandoned coffee cups and all. According to a survey of more than 2,400 remote workers conducted by Roborock, 83 percent of respondents said the cleanliness of their workspace affects their motivation, productivity, and stress levels. And it’s not just that most people enjoy a clean home — there’s also the fear of coworkers’ judging your video call background, which 70 percent of survey respondents admitted to doing. With that in mind, it’s no surprise to hear 73 percent also admitted to cleaning their home during the workday — an average of 2.5 hours of cleaning time per week.

With a large number of employees choosing to work remotely, cleaning on the clock likely isn’t going anywhere either. Fortunately, there is hope — or at least new cleaning solutions, like the Roborock S7 MaxV Series robot vacuums, that give us some time back. Curious about its impact on our own coworkers, we asked three members of our team what they like — and loathe — about working from home and how remote work has changed their cleaning habits.

Molly Drislane, manager, media insights, upstate New York

My work-from-home routine:

“My husband and I got married, had a baby, bought a condo, and have already outgrown it. We’re just too big for it. It’s three bedrooms and we both work from home and we have a baby at home and it gets a little claustrophobic. I have gotten to the place where I need to get out of the house, so I will try to go down to the city maybe once a month.”

The best part of working from home:

“I thought I loved not having a commute, but I have started dropping my baby off [at daycare] in the morning and I really like that peaceful time when I’m driving away from him to listen to a podcast. So maybe I do miss having a commute a little bit. My husband and I had lunch together today. It’s really nice outside up here in upstate New York and so we sat out on the deck and we had lunch. That kind of time that I get to spend with my family is definitely something that we would never have had before.”

The worst part of working from home:

“I get very claustrophobic. I get a little distracted by all the mess behind me, like the laundry that needs to be put away that I’m thinking about right now. I folded my son’s clothes last night and they’re just still sitting on the floor. It’s hard to compartmentalize.”

My cleaning routine:

“My husband jokes that I love to [deep] clean because I’ll put it on our calendar, in the weeks ahead, as our Cleaning Saturday, which we’ll have every four to six weeks. We can’t do anything until the entire place is clean, which is not that hard because it’s a three-bedroom condo, but we still have to dedicate half an afternoon to it. . . . I don’t love cleaning — I actually really hate cleaning — but I love having a clean home. When we finish it, my spirits are just so much lifted and lighter. I feel good to be in a place that’s clean.”

The most common mess in my home:

“My baby has just started eating solids, more and more self-feeding. Last night we gave him Swiss chard for the first time and he thought it was really funny to just pick it up one piece at a time and drop it on the floor.”

My biggest cleaning challenge:

“The floors are definitely our biggest challenge. I really try not to let people wear their shoes in here, especially because my baby’s about to start crawling, but it’s less about the people and more about the child who’s just constantly dropping everything that he gets his hands on, which is everything, and it’s all very sticky.”

Megan O’Donnell, associate producer, Astoria, NY

My usual weekly routine:

“I spend a lot of time at home, obviously working from home. When I got a dog, it definitely made me even more of a homebody because I’m like, ‘how am I going to leave her?’ I want to be watching TV with her, not spending money outside.”

The best part about working from home:

“I like being able to be a little bit more frugal and healthier. I love spending time with my dog, Margo,t and being able to take a proper lunch break and go for a walk or run an errand.”

The worst part about working from home:

“The thing I don’t like the most about working from home is that end of day feeling where I’m like, ‘am I done? Am I still answering emails?’ That transition between work and evening sometimes gets a little bit blurred, especially if I’m really busy. Then I’ll find myself working until 7:30 p.m. and I’m like, ‘wait, this is not necessary.’”

My cleaning philosophy:

“I need everything to be clean and organized for me to be able to start my day and open my laptop and feel at ease to begin. My mom would always tell me when I was a kid that the way your room looks is a reflection of how your brain functions. So if my clothes were everywhere and my toys were everywhere, my mom would be like, ‘OK, what’s going on?’”

My biggest cleaning challenge:

“Definitely the little dog hairs. There are little white hairs everywhere. It just seems like there are always more. I was wearing a black dress yesterday and I left the house and I looked down and was like, ‘Oh my God! I’m covered in hair. This is so embarrassing.’ . . . She’s lucky she’s so cute because it’s definitely an annoyance.”

What would make cleaning easier:

“More time would be great. Or even finding things that are a little bit more efficient, like a robot vacuum.”

Maggie Cassidy, senior scriptwriter, Williamsburg, NY

My work-from-home situation:

“It’s just me in my fourth-floor walk-up in Williamsburg — a very old building. My landlord was born in the building. That’s how old he and the building are.”

The best part about working from home:

“The flexibility of being able to live my actual life and not just live to work. I’m still getting as much work done, if not more. Today, I had a meeting break from 10:30 a.m. until 11:00 a.m., and in that half hour, sometimes it’s hard to get in the groove of writing in such a short period of time because once you get in the zone, it’s time to go to another meeting. So, in those 30 minutes I did some dishes, I vacuumed really quickly, I dusted.”

The worst part about working from home:

“Sometimes, if I am so busy with work and I do have a mess in my apartment, work is going to take priority because it’s the working hours. I’ve got to hunker down and do that while a bunch of dishes sit in the sink or a bed’s unmade. If I were at an office, I could just leave the dirty apartment and go into my office space.”

Why I need a tidy workspace:

“If I have a messy desk, I cannot focus. I could probably have a messy desk if I’m doing something that doesn’t require as much creative power.”

My biggest cleaning challenge:

“It’s just me that lives here. So if there’s a mess in the sink, I only have myself to blame. I can’t yell at the invisible roommate.”

What would make cleaning easier:

A multipurpose tool. Something that could vacuum the floor for me, maybe mop it to some degree, and be on the active lookout for any bugs that are finding their way into my home somehow.”

Whether they live alone, with family, or with pets, wishing for more time to keep their workspace clean was a common worry among our colleagues. They’re not the only ones feeling distracted or stressed by a messy home office, either: according to a Roborock survey, 88 percent of respondents said the cleanliness of their workspace impacted their peace of mind, 79 percent said it impacted their sense of work-life balance, and 77 percent said it impacted their confidence at work. Thirty-four percent of remote workers even said they felt embarrassed by a mess in their workspace. That’s where smart appliances and cleaning solutions like Roborock robot vacuums come in. These easy-to-use robot vacuum cleaners work on every surface, detect even the smallest amounts of dirt, and both vacuum and mop for a superior clean. Best of all, once you set it up, there’s no more work required: Roborock robot vacuums take care of the cleaning from there. It not only saves you time, but it’s also a worthwhile investment in keeping your home clean.

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