We’ve used our experience and expertise in workplace design to create guidelines for setting up a successful working-from-home environment.
As workplace experts, we’re constantly discussing the accelerating rate of change in the world around us, and analysing its impact on workspace and work practices. In the last couple months (or weeks depending on your location), that change has reached fever pitch; governments are advising, and in some places enforcing, remote working policies across able segments of the population in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“This is not how I envisioned the distributed work revolution taking hold,” wrote Automattic Chief Executive Matt Mullenweg nearly a month ago. Industry specialists have long been predicting the rise of flexible working, but no one expected such an abrupt pandemic-driven shift.
Regardless of what the future holds, adapting to the current state of work will prove vital in terms of company resilience. For everyone who doesn’t have access to their ideal work environment right now, we’ve put together some simple guidelines for creating productive workspace at home.
Access to the right types of tech for your job is an integral part of anyone’s ability to work remotely. More likely than not, you’ll need a laptop and charger, access to your company’s Virtual Private Network, communication software like Microsoft Teams or Slack, and a reliable broadband connection. It’s a good idea to invest in a pair of headphones with a decent microphone if your role involves frequent video meetings and/or calls.
Desktop monitors, wireless keyboards and computer mice, ergonomic wrist rests and company-issued smartphones may not be necessities, but they will help improve performance, productivity and wellbeing. Many businesses provide these devices and accessories to employees upon request, so be sure to reach out to your manager if you don’t feel properly equipped.
Connectivity is one of the pillars of effective office design, so it’s not surprising that it’s an important part of remote working as well. In fact, communication becomes even more important as teams move outside of their normal work environments and lose physical proximity.
Video and audio call software will allow teams to stay connected, meeting to discuss projects as frequently as they would in their office. You’ll need platforms with reliable call quality, as well as a shared space for progress reports and updates. Consider the following if you’re looking for a solution: Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Basecamp, Monday and Matrix.
Speak with your manager or team to set up communication expectations and help establish a new working rhythm. If you don’t already have weekly meetings, consider scheduling some to allow everyone to touch base. Even a brief 10-minute call at the beginning and/or end of the working day can help employees feel like they have the guidance and direction they need to stay on track at home.
Don’t stop social events just because no one is in the same building – continue to have happy hour or Friday drinks with the team over Skype or any of the above calling methods. It will feel odd at first, but it’s important to maintain social connectivity and team morale during the current period of uncertainty and isolation.
We design entire buildings around the ability to promote creativity: it’s a key skillset that drives innovation, employment and business success. Environmental variety, biophilic design and organic interactions are some of the largest drivers of creativity in the workplace.
It’s possible to set up a workspace that supports creativity at home, even during self-isolation. If you’re able to, work near a window. The variation in natural light has proven health benefits, and being able to see outside will boost creative thinking. Open spaces have been linked to higher creativity levels, and maintaining a sightline to the outdoors will help create the feeling of expanse and generate the associated creativity benefits.
Regularly take short breaks to get up and walk around. Physical activity is linked to all sorts of benefits including stress reduction (something we could all use right now) and creative thinking.
If you have houseplants, incorporate them in your makeshift home office by positioning them in or near your workspace. Simply being able to see living plants has been linked with added creativity and is one of the many benefits of introducing sustainably-minded elements into your working environment.
Social interactions with co-workers like post-work Skype drinks or Zoom coffee breaks will also boost creativity by generating opportunities for interaction that don’t otherwise exist during social distancing.
Your wellbeing, at work and at home, is influenced by a lot more than the environment you’re in. But measurable factors such as light levels, noise levels, humidity, dust levels, occupancy, and levels of CO2 and VOC are great indicators of how your environment can impact you.
Measuring these factors in your home may not be a practical option, but there are still some straight forward things you can do to improve the quality of your indoor environment.
Humidifiers and air purifiers are a wise investment when spending extended periods of time indoors, but plants have similar purifying abilities. The range of benefits that plants bring with them include fewer dust particles in the air, lower CO2 levels and increased humidity levels.
Be mindful of where you choose to work – reclining in bed or on the couch will lead to passive engagement and a tendency to critique rather than contribute. Finding ergonomic solutions at home can be tricky, but try to set up your computer so that it’s as close to eye-level as possible: avoid hunching over a laptop to prevent straining your back, neck and eyes.
How do you find a healthy work/life balance when work has literally moved in with you? It’s important to continue mentally switching on and off each day despite the absence of a physical commute.
Stick to your weekly routine even though you aren’t leaving the house. Wake up like you would normally, shower, get dressed and read the news or have a coffee before logging-on. You’ll feel more alert and you’ll be more productive if you continue to treat your job like, well, your job.
The same goes for ending the work day. It will help you log-off if you have a definitive ritual post-work as well. Go for a walk, do an at-home workout or read a book with a glass of wine – however you like to wind down, practice it consistently at the end of each day. Try to stay away from screens for at least an hour after you’ve sent your last email in order to let you mind truly shut-off.
Working remotely isn’t for everyone – it was never going to be. But if you’re lucky enough to be able to work from home right now and have questions about how to make the most of it, reach out to one of our workplace specialists. We may not be in the office, but we’re still here to help.