Work from Home and the Office - Is it Sustainable?
The boss calls, “Hi John, I hope you are well". Actually she has no idea how well I am as she has only seen my face on Zoom for the last 18 months! "I have some good news.....you won't have to work from home anymore. We need you back in the office for 3 days a week.” “That sounds great, when do you want me to come in", I reply, hoping she would say Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday so that I can plan the odd extended weekend! No such luck. “We want you in the office on Monday, Wednesday & Friday, and you will be using desk #4 on Monday, #7 on Wednesday and #1 on Friday”. Putting on a brave face I respond, "OK, I will see you on Monday”.
The above scenario, known as hybrid work, is currently being played out all over the world. But is it as simple as packing your bag and arriving at the office to do a days work? Is working in a different place every day conducive to improved productivity? Is hybrid work good for employee morale? Why hybrid work is emotionally exhausting - BBC.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, flexibility, and being able to work from home has become a key consideration in accepting a new job offer.
Let’s have a quick look at what has happened during COVID through the eyes of both the Employee and Employer.
1. The Employee's Perspective
- I am a creature of habit and I unfortunately change is not my strong point. At the start of COVID, it was novel to work from home, and like most people, I thought it would only be for a few weeks. 18 months down the line I have adapted to the new norm.
- After been hunched at the dining room table for a couple of weeks, my back was in a terrible state. The weekly trips to my physio were costing a fortune, and he told me that unless I made a fundamental change to my workstation, the damage to my back could become permanent. I needed to change my work area at home to one where my chair, desk, and laptop, are in harmony.
- I am scared, I don’t want to hang around lots of people. Yes, I have been vaccinated, but after the umpteenth mutation I am not keen to test my vaccine's effectiveness.
2. The Employer's Perspective
- The company’s culture has been eroded due to the lack of the daily office small talk. No chest beating or serious one-on-one cessions that are crucial for career development. Hybrid Work – Is the office still relevant?
- Opportunities in the organisation have been created, but where are my ass licking (just checking if you are awake?) employees who are putting their hands up to remind me how great they are? What about the employees who love the freedom of working from home, but have been 'forgotten' due to their own conscientiousness?
- What are my employees focusing on? Am I losing control? Are my employees pursuing "private jobs and interests" during working hours?
- Due to COVID, we have reduced our office space and can now only seat 60% of our staff. This means we only want employees in the office 3 days per week, and not 5.
What does this all mean?
Hybrid work means you could have a different workstations every day of the week.
If your company has introduced hybrid work and reduced it's office space, employees will have to share workstations (hot desking). The big question now is.....does hot desking cater to EVERY employee's needs?
Whether you work from home or the office, your workstation should include 5 essential items.
The 5 Requirements for Hybrid Work
An Adjustable Ergonomic or Orthopedic office chair
We are all different. If we are going to be sharing workstations, we need a chair that can easily be adjusted to suit every persons unique requirements.
Your adjustable office chair should include the following:
- Height adjustment.
Your chair must be able to go up and down so that you can sit in the correct position at your workstation. What is the correct height for my chair and desk?
- Adjustable Lumbar support.
How an adjustable lumbar support improves comfort and reduces the incidence of back pain.
- Dynamic Sitting.
The ability to change the seat and backrest angle while you sit on the chair is known as Dynamic Sitting. This is crucial for improving comfort and reducing back, neck and shoulder pain. Ergonomic office chairs fitted with a synchronous (synchro) mechanism, or orthopedic chairs that have a free-float mechanism, promote dynamic sitting.
- Height Adjustable Armrests.
Having your elbows supported at the correct height removes the tension in your shoulders and neck.
Chairs with wheels or castors enable you to quickly move it into the right position at your workstation.
- Other (non critical) features on your office chair include:
- Adjustable seat depth, especially for people with longer legs.
- Adjustable head/neck rest.
- Multi-adjustable armrests where the arm pads can adjust horizontally in a backwards and forwards direction, as well as sideways.
- Height adjustment.
An Adjustable Desk, commonly known as a Sit/Stand desk
Preferably rectangular in shape, modern sit/stand desks have electronic height control, and with their in-built memory function, can easily be adjusted to suit every user.
While adjustable office chairs have been available for many years, sit/stand desks are a relatively new innovation. The ability to adjust the height of the desk to suit an individual user is an essential element of hot-desking. When you work from home, it is it easy to set the height of the desk to suit a single individual. However, with hybrid work and hot desking, multiple people will using the same desk, making a sit/stand desk a "must-have" item. 7 Benefits of a Standing Desk.
An adjustable desk that displays the height and/or has a memory function, makes it even easier to setup the workstation for EVERY user's needs.
Freestanding monitor on a monitor arm
Improve overall ergonomic comfort by allowing each user to quickly connect their laptop to the monitor and adjust it's height and depth.
Wireless mouse and keyboard
These are "must-have" items and I would recommend you take them with you wherever you go. Working with a free-standing monitor together with a wireless keyboard and mouse, are game changers.
You can move the keyboard right to the front edge of your desk beneath your hands. If you do not have a free-standing monitor, set your laptop monitor to a height where you look directly at the monitor and not up or down. The perfect office setup if you work from home.
This is the final piece of the hot-desking puzzle, and is often forgotten! We are not equally tall, and a footstool caters for people of different heights.
A footstool has the following benefits:
- Support and stability. By pushing against your footstool, you automatically push against the chair backrest which helps ensure that you are seated in the correct position.
- A footstool that swivels improves blood circulation, and thereby aids concentration.
Work from Home - Conclusion
As an employee, if you include the above 5 items in your workstation, hybrid work will not be as daunting as you first imagined. Whether you work from home or the office, within minutes you will have yourself setup and ready to go! 9 Great ideas for your home office.
As an employer, having workstations with the above 5 features will help protect the health of your staff. Any employee that is uncomfortable at work, cannot be fully productive.
Investing in the above 5 items will benefit the health and wellbeing of your employees, which in turn, will improve their productivity.
Like all things, hybrid work requires a change in mindset from both the employer and employee. Once both parties understand the benefits, there is no going back. Good luck!