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Enhancing the Home Office Space

Enhancing the Home Office Space
27 August 2020 | Updated 28 August 2020
 

With more companies keen to keep office occupancy to a minimum, Stephen Roberts from CMD Ltd discusses how companies need to equip their teams to make working from home a permanent solution.

One of the knock-on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been to create the biggest working from home experiment the world has ever seen. Companies that have previously avoided allowing their employees to work from home have discovered that their preconceptions on the matter were wide of the mark. In fact, for many, enabling teams to work from home has led to increased productivity as commute time becomes work time, technology enables wider collaboration and improved flexibility in the working day delivers enhanced motivation and wellbeing.

With lockdown eased and teams returning to offices, it is easy to assume that the world will tip back into life as we knew it, and that homeworking will, once again, be the preserve of the privileged few. The reality, however, is very different.

 

"For those without a dedicated office, working from home during lockdown has been extra challenging. They may have had to share their home’s only table with housemates, a partner or homeschooling regimes, packing everything away at the end of each day to allow the space to be re-purposed for leisure time."

 

Returning to Work 

 

Firstly, employers and FMs are facing the challenge of reconfiguring their existing office spaces to accommodate their team while providing a safe, socially-distanced workplace. For office environments that were operating on a high-density model before the pandemic, this is a circle that’s difficult to square.

Secondly, many of those that have had a taste of working from home are now reluctant to return to the old routines of long commutes and tiresome presenteeism. While some may miss the socialisation and face-to-face collaboration of the office environment, many will be keen to continue working from home some or all of the time where they can avoid the interruptions of the office and work around other commitments.

Finally, employers have learned that, rather than providing an opportunity for employees to put their feet up and relax, working from home has been proven during lockdown to enhance productivity and facilitate the work/life balance that their teams have yearned for. No longer shackled by the 9-to-5, professionals can adopt routines that work for them, which has distinct advantages for companies that operate across time zones, as well as boosting morale, motivation and productivity.

 

How do we Make Homeworking Work for Everyone in the Long Term?

 

For FMs the challenge of transferring home working into viable workplace policy, rather than emergency response, is only just beginning. Moreover, it is as potentially complex as reconfiguring the office in line with social distancing requirements.

During the pandemic, homeworkers have largely fallen into one of two groups: those with a dedicated space at home to use as an office, and those who have had to carve out a workspace on a daily basis, often while factoring in partners, children or housemates sharing the same environment.

 

 

Enhancing home office

Picture: Photograph of Stephen Roberts

 

If employers are going to adopt a homeworking/partial homeworking model going forward, they have a duty of care to ensure that members of staff in either of these scenarios have a home workplace environment that supports their physical and mental health and wellbeing. This means considering ergonomics, desktop facilities and connectivity. That process begins with understanding the set up for each employee and, from there, packages tailored for dedicated home offices or makeshift workstations can be put in place on a plug and play basis.

 

Enhancing the Dedicated Home Office

 

Whether it is an office, a spare bedroom or a garden room, if a worker has a space where the desk is permanently set up for work, it can be interpreted as a permanent workspace. However, unlike in the office, many of those working from home in this scenario will not have an appropriate task chair or monitor arm. They may also not have access to conveniently located or sufficient power sockets and charge points, which can lead to a jumble of wires and extension leads that are potentially hazardous to both their health and safety and the company’s IT assets.

To address this, along with the right chair, companies can provide a fixed monitor arm to enable height-adjustable dual screen working. A network extender, which improves the data signal for the improved connection required for online meetings and VPN access to the company server, is also a must. A unit that combines the network extender with power and USB sockets is ideal, because it saves space and provides everything the homeworker needs in one location.

 

Creating the Flexible Remote Office

 

For those without a dedicated office, working from home during lockdown has been extra challenging. They may have had to share their home’s only table with housemates, a partner or homeschooling regimes, packing everything away at the end of each day to allow the space to be re-purposed for leisure time.

A package of equipment specifically designed for makeshift workstations could enable this group to make longer-term homeworking a viable choice by allowing them to use a more ergonomic, comfortable set up that packs away neatly when not in use. For example, CMD has developed a lightweight monitor arm for single or dual screens, that enables the screen to be raised to the optimum height for the user, without being permanently attached to the desk or table. Designed to be quick and easy to install it allows the use of a second screen when working from a laptop.

One of the issues with working from a laptop is ergonomics, with poor screen position often resulting in poor posture which can result in discomfort while working and aches and pains. A simple solution, such as CMD’s portable laptop stand, can address this by allowing the user to set the screen height to suit their viewline. This not only allows the homeworker to pack their workstation away at the end of the day, but also enables them to create a more suitable space in a café or co-working environment, away from both the office and the home if they wish.

The issues around power points and data connection also affect this group, and the same principles apply. CMD’s Inca desktop power supply module is suitable for use on a kitchen table, with sockets in multiple directions along with USB points. Used in conjunction with a network extender, this provides a portable, flexible approach to working from anywhere.

 

Rising to the Challenge

 

COVID-19 has made home working possible for both businesses and individuals. The question now is not how companies will encourage a return to the way we worked before, but how well they will respond with solutions that facilitate workplace levels of comfort, health and safety and productively at home.

Picture: A photograph of a person working in their garden on a laptop, using a stand and wireless keyboard

Article written by Stephen Roberts | Published 27 August 2020

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