REMOTE WORK

Building a productive hybrid work from home environment

Hybrid work popularity has exploded since the shock therapy of lockdowns and COVID-19 pandemic induced isolation. But while the companies get increasingly savvy regarding the new reality, sometimes it is all about the employees who need guidance about reshaping their reality.

The pandemic was an unexpected hit that has transformed the image of working all around the world. According to the Remote working in Europe - before and after covid the share of Europeans ever working daily from home has reached 40%, skyrocketing from a humble 15% working from home at least once in their lifetime.

This has come as a challenge for employees regarding the setup of their home office and switching from the sterile reality of their offices to the daily reality of their homes-turned-workplaces.

What is an environment anyway?

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the most basic and to-the-ground definition of the environment is:

the circumstances, objects, or conditions by which one is surrounded

This definition includes both the living and nonliving surroundings, yet the intuitive one is more about the rocks, trees, and objects rather than the society and people. That’s why this text focuses on the physical and object-focused aspects of remote work. Also, it is much easier to buy or replace something than to set new routines or teach the family and friends to approach one in a new way that was unseen before.

This gets especially tricky when one has children - and in Calamari, we have published a separate guide on remote working with children around.

How to set up a perfect hybrid work home environment

In the perfect world, the remote employee would have a separate room to work, filled with fancy gadgets including a whiteboard with Kanban-style post-its on the wall. But the reality of many home-based employees is far from that. According to the Eurostat data, nearly one in five (17.8%) EU citizens is living in an overcrowded household. For people aged 15-29 years, this indicator reaches more than one in four (27.5%).

This indicator varies depending on the country, with 64.7% of Romanian youths living in overcrowded households, compared to 4.3% of youths from Cyprus.

Yet all of them, no matter if the remote work is done from a separate room or from a desk in a shared room, can implement these tricks and improvements to their remote working environment.

Set the good height of the desk

The desk is the solid foundation of every work - basically, no matter if one is a programmer, office clerk, graphic designer, or carpenter, a good desk is a must. On the other hand, the desk itself can be just a table, as long as one considers it good enough to work.

With the long hours spent sitting at the desk, it needs to be ergonomic and the height needs to be fitting for one’s needs.

Depending on the style of the work, it can be a good idea to have a desk with a height regulation. One can not only modify the height at will but also work standing for some time. The perfect height is when the elbows are bent at 90 degrees with ease, without the need to.

The desks vary with their prices and quality, yet it is worth spending a bit more on a better desk if one is planning to work from home for a longer period of time.

Early adopters of work from home tend to be delighted with a vision of working from bed, keeping their laptop on laps, yet this can result in pains in the neck, back, and shoulders.

How the employer can help

Assuming that the employee shows up in the office from time to time, the employer can invite him or her for a short training session on working space ergonomics. People tend to hurt themselves with improper positions mostly due to a lack of knowledge.

If the employee will not appear in the office and works in a fully remote way, the training can be done online. Yet the real session with a certified trainer and physiotherapist can be both more convincing and better tailored to the needs of a particular employee.

Think about a good chair

The second foundation of the good work, the chair needs to support back in the most natural way, protecting the natural S-curve of the spine.

Again, the best and most obvious way is to invest in a good office chair. On the other hand, a good office chair, the same as a good desk, is a large device that can be hard to keep in an overcrowded and small flat.

Also, it can be costly.

For those who cannot afford the high-quality chairs comes pillows that can be used to support the natural spine angles and protect the back during prolonged sitting periods.

How the employer can help

Some employers allow their employees to borrow a chair from the office for remote work. Usually, it is a win-win, with every office having an excess number of chairs to be used by home-based employees without harm to ones in the building.

On the other hand, this works only if there is a proximity between the home-working employee and the office employee. Ones with a greater distance (for example living in another city) need to invest in their own chairs.

Depending on the company policy, the financial support for buying a better chair can be an employee benefit. With many companies supporting their staff in buying glasses, providing staff with good back protection is a valid idea.

Keep the working space a working space

This one applies to the employee and his or her approach to the surrounding environment. There are people with a strict approach to the tidiness of their desk and ones thriving in creative chaos.

In the ideal world, one would have a separate working room. But it is hardly possible for everyone and many employees need to stick to their desks or corners during the home office.

The key is in keeping the working space a place for work. If it is a desk, it should be full of office-related papers, pens, or sketchbooks full of plans. If there are reminders about home-related issues like socks to be put in pairs, children’s toys or a screwdriver crying to be used to repair a cupboard, it is more likely for one to abandon work or to be constantly distracted by his or her home-related duties.

There is no reason to not use the desk after work to play computer games, have some hobby-related activities or iron - you name it. But in the end, it needs to be an office space. But in the home.

How the employer can help

In fact - it cannot. It is only up to employees if they can keep the discipline and motivation to separate the working and home space.

Keep everything you need close

Following the point above, it is convenient to stick to the working space during the working time, in the same way, one stays in the office. Keeping all that is needed close reduces the need to stop the work in the search of the needed thing.

For example, if one uses many notebooks and pencils to plan the work, it would be wise to have a stack of them in the drawer. Keeping a full bottle of water reduces the need to go to the kitchen and refill the cup. If one drinks a lot of tea or coffee, buying a vacuum flask to keep the drink warm can be a good idea.

The same goes for the chargers, connection cables, speakers, and headphones - as long as a thing may be useful for work at the home office setup, it is advisable to have it nearby. And a box of tissues and thrashbin alike.

How the employer can help

In the same way as above - not really at all. It is all a matter of having a proper mindset to work from home and keep being organised. This can go not as easy as supposed.

Set up a good lighting condition

Having a setup of a chair and desk ensures that the spine, elbows and wrists are protected. But one also needs eyes to work. And that enforces setting up good lighting conditions.

A good desk lamp with a proper, elastic angle can significantly impact the working comfort. While the access to the natural light is crucial, the lamp is still a great way to reduce eye fatigue.

An ideal working light blends into the ambient and creates neither glare nor shadow. A glare on the monitor delivered by the light placed behind can turn the work into a nightmare, as well as a shadow on a keyboard or a card with notes.

How the employer can help

Providing the employee with a desk light is not a cost the employer cannot afford. Thus buyung a good lamp can be a part of the employer branding.

Also, running a dedicated training (supported by the meetings with a physiotherapist mentioned above) can do a lot of good work.

Last but not least - if possible, the employer should encourage the employees to work with their daylight hours and show flexibility toward partners in different time zones if building an international team.

Take breaks

Working from home comes with various challenges, with keeping the work-life balance being one of the most important. According to the SHRM study, remote workers tend to work longer than before, with 45% of people surveyed saying that they work longer hours and 70% working on the weekends.

Working from home ruins the natural boundaries of going out of the office. By that, it makes “checking the email one more time” or “just one more thing” easier. On the other hand, when one is working from home with kids, effective work can be extremely challenging.

How the employer can help

This is the aspect where the employer can shine. Using time and attendance tracking tools like Calamari ensures both parties that the agreement is kept. It takes the pressure of proving the number of hours worked (full time or part time - doesn’t matter) from the employee as well as ensuring the employer that all the working time is kept.

Systems like Calamari allow the employer and the employee to manually set up breaks or sometimes to enforce ones by delivering a hybrid work schedule. Thus, by proactively encouraging the employees to take breaks, the employer can significantly contribute to building the productive home office environment.

Take care of your ears

Last but not least, with spine and eyes protected, one needs to take care of ears. Working from home can deliver unexpected shits in conditions, starting from an extreme silence of an apartment block with all flats empty, to the neighbour’s kids shouting and their dad drilling from dusk till dawn.

This is a good reason to buy good noise-cancelling headphones. The prices vary, depending on the brand, the level of noise cancelling possibilities and the quality of sound.

Also, the home-based office usually lacks the professional teleconferencing tools, thus using headphones with a good microphone can be a life-saver when attending online meetings.

How the employer can help

It is not unseen for the employer to provide the employee with a set of headphones together with a computer to work. Investing a little more in a better set can significantly improve the working conditions of a home-based employee.

Summary

Setting a productive and ergonomic hybrid working environment is not an easy task, with many images of a home work available in the internet and social media. When poorly implemented, the hybrid work and remote work can result in amassing health problems with eye fatigue, back pains and overworking. Yet the aware employer can tackle these challenges, mitigate the risks and provide his or her employees with a great environment to work in the office and in their homes alike.

If you wish to talk more about building the hybrid work culture in your organisation, don’t hesitate to contact us now!

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