Before the pandemic, remote work was becoming increasingly popular, with more employers offering the flexibility for certain workers to telecommute at least part of the time.
Those who regularly or exclusively worked virtually had likely already solved for challenges related to their physical environment. This includes having a dedicated, distraction-free location, an appropriate desk and chair and even potentially tools like headsets and laptop stands that are designed to enable people to minimize the physical impact of using a computer all day.
But for the legions of non-essential employees across the country, telecommuting came out of the blue with little or no time to prepare.
(At Businessolver, we switched to an all-remote team within two business days. Because of the type of work we do, we had a robust business continuity plan already in place, and we were able to act on it quickly.)
As the days turn into weeks, which may turn into months of remote work, it becomes increasingly important to support the physical realities many employees are likely facing in their homes around telecommuting, especially those who weren’t previously working remotely.
Employees working from home may not have ergonomic workspaces or high-quality office furniture. Without having to get up to go to physical meetings or walk from the parking lot, they may be sitting for longer periods and simply moving around less than they do in an on-site location.
Additionally, employees working in an office often benefit from ergonomic office furniture and specially-designed workspaces. While it’s probably not possible to recreate this environment at home, you can provide tools and tips to help employees protect their bodies from the stresses of less-than-optimal work arrangements.
- Provide tips on how to set up at home. While it might be tempting and seem comfortable, working from a couch or in bed is not a good long-term approach. A desk or table with a comfortable chair is a much better choice for employees. Their laptop screen or monitor should be at eye level, so if the employee is using a laptop, a separate mouse and keyboard is best so they can raise the screen. Laptop stands are great, but even household items like books can be effective in raising the screen to the right height.
While it might not be feasible to have people bring desks home, you might consider relaxing your policies and allowing people to “borrow” their work chair or monitors for use while they are remote.
- Encourage standing and moving around. When employees are remote it can be tempting to rely exclusively on videoconferencing but if someone doesn’t have a standing desk that means they may be stuck sitting all day in front of their screen between work and meetings. A good old phone call can be appropriate for certain conversations and it has the added bonus of enabling both parties to move around while they talk. Some organizations have used walking meetings in the office, and these can be recreated by phone. The trick is to try to mix up how you communicate to try and keep people moving.
- Recommend a good stretching routine. In the best of times when you sit or stand for eight or more hours a day, your body can certainly tense up. On top of that, we’re all dealing with some level of stress related to uncertainty these days. Not everyone is going to unwind—physically or emotionally—with yoga or meditation, although both are great for one’s health. But, pretty much anyone can, and should, do a few impactful and well-timed stretches throughout the day. This is especially important if an employee is working at a temporary at-home workspace. Share resources with employees and encourage them to set timers throughout the day to stretch, including through online reminders and apps to keep on track.
When employees are on-site, you can control their work environment to ensure it’s designed for maximum productivity and health. In the current environment, many employees are doing their jobs from spaces they set up on the fly, and these may not reflect your organization’s best practices. While you can’t recreate your physical location for employees at home, you can support the way they work during this pandemic by providing guidance and resources to help people keep their bodies safe and healthy.
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