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The revolution of remote work had begun years before the coronavirus pandemic pushed even its most adamant skeptics to adopt it. Now, after some months managing remote teams, many of them are warming up to the concept after having their fears dispelled. It seems that nearly every other day for the past month, news outlets have reported on yet another company either extending their work-from-home policy, announcing that it will now be a permanent option, or that they’re ready to take the plunge, closing their office spaces altogether.
Freelancers and other early adopters of an out-of-office lifestyle will tell you that hitting the sweet spot of productivity isn’t as simple as sitting down anywhere and getting to work. Though often the freedom of remote initially leads people to start their days setting up at coffee shops, the unpredictable circumstances they offer (shoddy WiFi or noisy patrons, for example) are far from ideal. After a while, most remote workers prefer to work from home, and since that’s the case, it’s important to explore what a suitable home workspace should look like.
The conversation has already started — Forbes recently ran a feature with a provocative title, asking: Are home offices dangerous? And though at first glance it may sound alarmist, the author certainly doesn’t fail to back up her case with facts and statistics. After describing the many factors that go into ensuring office environments are compliant with basic safety regulations — think light bulb wattage, cord clutter control, and desk-chair ergonomics — she writes that “in just a few months, the workforce has regressed 50 years in workplace safety advancements by ignorantly designing home offices that are exclusively form over function.” Sure, we all want a nice background for our Zoom meetings, but as working from home settles as the new norm, we’ll have bigger-picture matters of health, safety, and general wellness to consider.
Let’s start with ergonomics. Millions of people across the world are currently working from home, many of them spending their days at their dining tables, sitting on chairs that weren’t designed for the amount of hours their work requires of them. Moving forward, perhaps the most obvious thing for a company to cover in a pivot to a remote model is providing employees with ergonomic workspaces to care for their physical health and all-around comfort. And once that’s settled, what else is there to consider?
Proper lighting is doubtlessly a crucial aspect of any functional workspace. It helps keep energy levels high, avoids eye strain and headaches, and generally sustains morale. Indirect natural light is ideal for working during the day, but if your apartment doesn’t have enough of it, you can bring in some lamps that diffuse light through lampshades or by bouncing it off the roof and walls of your workspace. The main idea is to reduce glare and avoid casting shadows.
And now, for the fun stuff: You’ll want to keep in mind that your home office is the place you’ll spend a great deal of your week, which means you should make the effort to not only keep it organized, but also attractive. House plants have many health benefits, among them reducing stress, boosting your mood, and improving air quality, so consider keeping a couple around your workspace. (If you have an unfortunate history with plants, here’s a list of some that thrive indoors, and are nearly impossible to kill. 😉 )
It’s also important to strike a balance between calming and stimulating visuals. Maybe there’s a specific quote that motivates you, for instance. Frame it, but keep the colors and font simple enough to not be too distracting. You can add a pop of color here and there, but let neutrals reign to keep the environment from feeling chaotic. Depending on your work, you may need to establish a system to keep documents and other tools organized so you’re not overwhelmed by clutter.
All in all, ensuring these aspects are taken care of will make or break you and your team’s work from home experience. Though physical health and safety is a bare minimum requirement for long-term remote work success, the additional tips we’ve listed can stave off stress, increasing happiness and productivity. The psychological wellbeing of workers can determine how well they perform and collaborate, as well as how long they’re with you, so make sure you factor them into your strategy to go or remain remote.
If you want expert guidance on how to take care of your remote team, check out how GroWrk can help you improve your remote work strategy!