Foundations of the WFH Office

So, you are looking to set some employees up to work from home on a fulltime or flexible basis in 2021 and beyond but what are the practical and financial parameters for their new ‘home office’? These considerations will be dictated largely by the company’s structure, size and financial position, and the type of employee solutions possible based on their job role and personal circumstances. For example, with a micro or small business, the decision making process will be very centralised and likely to be applicable to those making the decision. Directors may be looking to relocate themselves from a rented office space to a home office and these parameters will therefore largely be defined by them …… and potentially for them. With a small to medium sized organisation these parameters will be very different and more complex.

Office of Choice or Office by Default?

It is likely many would agree, that if neither finances nor available space were issues, a quality Garden Office would be the most desirable WFH solution and most people’s 1st choice. A dedicated work zone separated from home life and thus void of distractions, coupled with that “going to the office” vibe and yet just feet from home. There are many significant advantages to this type of set up and we will be covering these in future articles, but the reality is that for a high percentage of organisations, one of the following options will provide the most likely solution, either a dedicated room or a shared function room within the home.

A dedicated room is the preferred choice of most as it provides the next best thing to a separate Garden Office but only around ¼ of employees (@atlascloud) can dedicate such a space like a study or spare bedroom. The remainder by default, are needing to make do with a room that has shared functionality like a dining room, living room, conservatory or kitchen. For some, this may be convenient and an acceptable trade off compared to returning to the ‘old normal’ but for many, it is not ideal and so as an absolute minimum, there needs to be certain elements introduced by the employer that help to create a desirable WFH environment. In essence the WFH zone foundations.

Building WFH Foundations

Good foundations create the base level for building anything long term and creating a WFH zone, is no different. Ignoring certain components, taking shortcuts or using inappropriate products or services will ultimately lead to failure of the set up, as employee begin to feel disenfranchised.

In our previous post, we covered the positive financial impact that moving staff to WFH could have for both parties, which could be achieved through investment in the 4 main areas of operation, namely Physical, Practical, Wellbeing and Support & Advice. It is elements from within these same areas of operation that should be considered when building the WFH foundations.

In respect of the operational Physical requirements of Furniture, Lighting, IT Equipment and Office Supplies & Accessories, what follows is considered as the absolute minimum requirements for a chosen WFH zone within a shared function room. The Practical, Wellbeing and Support & Advice elements will be covered in future articles.

- Furniture

The importance of the best possible ergonomic set up for the chosen WFH zone cannot be underestimated. It is well documented, that a comfortable chair that is adjustable to suit an appropriate desk space will promote good posture and is therefore critical to long term health of employees working from home.

The desk itself need not be a typical ‘office’ desk and indeed could be dual purpose but should as a minimum, have sufficient depth to help with screen distance and be sufficiently large to accommodate work files, documents and stationery. Failure to accommodate these basic elements will have a significant impact on employee productivity levels and eye strain.

It is widely recognised that a ‘clean desk policy’ in a normal office environment is good practice in respect of productivity levels and indeed security and the WFH zone should be no different. As such, shelving or a storage cupboard should be available for the storing of files, documents, stationery and IT peripherals at the end of the workday.

Depending on what the chosen room’s family function is, some form of screening or backdrop should be considered if for example, the employee is expected to be on video chats to customers, suppliers or colleagues or simply to provide a degree of divide.

- Lighting

As with furniture ergonomics, the importance of providing the most appropriate lighting cannot be overestimated. The impact on employee’s wellbeing and productivity is significant and again well documented. Ideally the work zone should be in an area of the room that has a good natural light source and if this receives direct sunlight, an appropriate shade offered in the form of a blind or curtain. To supplement this, artificial light is required and should be positioned in a way that does not cast shadows or create glare. Typical solutions would be an anglepoise desk or floor lamp, desk lamp or clamp spotlight

- IT Equipment

The type of IT Equipment required will largely be determined by the employee’s job role and work requirements. For some, an appropriately specified laptop will suffice but for others, their needs will be more like their conventional office set up. This could include an appropriately specified PC and monitor or maybe dual monitors, peripherals (mouse/keyboard/monitor or laptop stands) and a Printer/Scanner.

Whether employees have customer or supplier interfacing roles or not, the importance for all to have connectivity with the office and colleagues is a key ingredient to the success of them WFH. As such, consideration of the most appropriate visual and audio set up such as cameras and headsets or speakers and microphones is vital.

- Office Supplies and Accessories

Employees will still need many of the same office supplies and accessories as they would within the conventional office, like Stationery Products and IT Consumables but the good news is that studies have shown that in a WFH environment, they typically use less of them. This therefore means that if the employer’s policy is to have these items delivered to the employees’ home, the cost of doing so is likely to be outweighed considerably by the lower volumes ordered per annum. Alternatively, employees could simply pick these items up on the days they attend the office.

As the above demonstrates, there are many factors to consider when setting employees up to WFH, such as the number of employees being considered, what their job role requirements are, what their home’s physical limitations are and what the organisations WFH movement budget is, but the underlying requirement will be to ensure the basic WFH foundations are sound. Implement WFH correctly and an organisation will have happy, motivated, productive and healthy employees.

The WFH Zone is the UK’s first online portal designed to assist organisations in the process of setting employees up to work from home in the most cost effective and ethical way. Our service provides a filter and search facility that helps employers and employees find quality suppliers of a range of Services and Products specifically associated with a work from home zone.

74% (of employees) believe their company should pay for, or provide, office technology equipment (including laptops, printers, and extra screens) when they work from home (@OwlLabs)