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Is the home office here to stay?

Is the home office here to stay?
Article

With tech giants Google and Facebook announcing that their global operations will not return to the office until summer 2021 and other companies looking at a permanent switch to remote working, the Coronavirus could have a lasting impact on the way we work. For example, BP is reportedly considering reducing its global office space by up to half and moving 50,000 employees worldwide to remote working.

 

If this is the case then the home office needs to adapt to meet this demand. When companies abandoned their offices in March to comply with lockdown guidelines, few expected it to last more than a couple of months at most. Employees from interns to senior management set up their laptop in any free space in their house, took calls on personal mobiles and moved around their home to find the best signal. But far from being a temporary measure, working from home is likely to become a normal part of working life for many white-collar employees. Whether on a full time or flexible basis, many companies are looking at this not just as a way to support social distancing in the short term but as an effective way to reduce the company’s carbon footprint and overheads, while offering staff the flexibility that many put at the top of their job satisfaction wish list. If remote working is to continue though, it is essential to set up a home office that provides a comfortable and professional workspace. It is important to remember that the employer is still responsible for the wellbeing of remote workers so, the company must ensure staff members have all the equipment they need if expected to work from home long term.

5 home office essentials

 

The office space itself

You should create a dedicated workspace so you can keep your office separate from your living space. A spare room is obviously ideal so you can close it off from the rest of the house but that’s not always practical. A corner of the living room or open space under the stairs may work just as well if you are able to tailor it to your needs. Wherever you put it, make sure your workspace looks professional so you can take video calls with embarrassment.

 

Your own desk

If you will be working from home on a regular basis you don’t want to be working on the dining room table or doing long term damage to your back by slouching on the sofa. Invest in a desk where you can leave your workspace set up the way you want it and can walk away at the end of the day. If you work mainly on a laptop, a small desk will probably be sufficient but if you work with multiple screens or have a lot of hardcopy paperwork it’s important to find a desk (and somewhere to put it) that will give you the space you need to work efficiently. For optimal ergonomics, make sure the top of your screen is level with your eyeline.

 

A supportive office chair

Perhaps the most important thing to get right is your office chair. You can cut corners with your desk if you’re on a tight budget, but it is worth spending a little extra to get a chair that will give you the right support and help you sit in an ergonomic position. Investing in a good ergonomic office chair will prevent back pain, circulation issues and other health complaints as well as lasting far longer than a cheap task chair. As so many people have discovered during lockdown, the wrong set up can make working from home a nightmare. Look for a chair with lumbar support, adjustable armrests and a full-adjustable mechanism that lets you set the height and tilt of the backrest and seat to your preferred sitting position. Alternatively, take the opportunity to set up the office you’ve always wanted and go for a sit-stand desk so you can vary your working position throughout the day.

 

Efficient equipment and connectivity

Allowances have been made during lockdown for connectivity issues and interruptions to conference calls, but long term your home office needs to be just as efficient and professional as an office building would be. Ensure your internet connection is fast enough for your needs and upgrade if necessary. Have a backup plan for internet downtime or power cuts. You should also ask for a work phone separate to your personal mobile.

 

Good lighting

Adequate lighting can reduce fatigue and help you work more efficiently, as well as preventing eye strain. Natural light is always the best option so position your desk near a window if possible. As winter draws near though, make sure the overhead lighting is neither too bright nor too dim – add a desk lamp if necessary.

 

With the kids heading back to school in September, working from home will change (for the better) for many of us, allowing more time and space to work without distractions. It is important to talk to your employer about their plans for remote working in both the short and the long term as well as your preferences about where you perform best. Regardless, the right home workspace will provide you the flexibility to work away from the office effectively at any time, providing a security blanket for the company should the need for social distancing arise again and giving you more control over your work-life balance.

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