3 Ways to Help Employees Improve the Home Office
The workplace has changed. Today, while a slim majority of workers (55 percent) continues to work in the office five days per week, 34 percent of employees have a hybrid or fully remote structure, according to Owl Lab’s Hybrid Work Survey. For many, having the luxury of a home office — whether that's one, three or five days a week — brings unparalleled benefits, including foregoing long commutes and enjoying flexible schedules and relaxed attires.
Yet, fully remote work has led many to the realization that there are also drawbacks, including not having an optimal setup. From pains to strains, not having the right home office can be detrimental to employee health and wellbeing — and, as a result, productivity and job satisfaction.
As more companies choose to cede their large headquarters to provide employees the flexibility they seek, management teams have an opportunity to extend their support to enhance the work experience.
The Risks of Poor Ergonomics
While most home offices include the basic necessities of a desk and chair, many employees had to cobble together their home office with whatever they had on hand when the pandemic hit. This has translated to makeshift arrangements with poor ergonomic design and heightened injury risk.
Ergonomics isn’t merely for comfort; health issues can arise or escalate when work spaces aren't adequate. “Prolonged poor posture puts pressure on the lungs and digestive organs, resulting in breathing difficulties and stomach discomfort,” said Kavin Patel, founder and CEO of Chandler, Ariz.-based Convrrt. Eventually, he said, not only is this harmful to physical health, but employees' mental and emotional health can also be in danger.
To alleviate and avoid these issues, an ergonomically designed home office is advised. Here are some roadmaps to creating a healthy, sustainable home office.
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The 4 Must-Haves for an Ergonomic Home Office
An ergonomic home office should contain a few items:
- A chair that supports the spine.
- A desk at the appropriate height for a laptop or keyboard.
- A display at a comfortable height to avoid eye strain.
- Good lighting.
Depending on the technology used, an external keyboard and mouse or a laptop stand may be appropriate to help avoid putting unnecessary strain on the wrists. For Benjamin Stenson, CEO at Louisville, Ky.-based home remodeling company Norsemen, however, the most critical item is the chair.
“Ergonomic chairs are a very common item now. You can find several models at any furniture store or look for them online at Amazon,” he said, noting that an ergonomic chair should have adjustable depth and height as well as locking back support and extendable armrests.
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David Morneau, CEO at Montreal, Quebec-based Breeeze, said that the importance of seat height, width and depth are critical. “Opt for chairs with an average height of 16 to 21 inches off the ground," he said, "and select a chair that allows you to sit back and lean your head against the headrest.”
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3 Ways Businesses Can Support Employee Health
Today's digital workplace brings many new opportunities for companies and their leaders to enhance the employee experience. To win and retain talent, employers must make sure they provide a great environment for employees. Here are three easy ways to do so:
- Provide a Home Office Stipend
Possibly one of the easiest ways for businesses to support their employees in a work-from-home setting is to provide a stipend to purchase furniture and equipment. Even when employees earn good wages and have the ability to invest in a home office, the ergonomics of it all may not be seen as a priority, or even as a responsibility on their part. By providing a stipend, businesses bring greater awareness to the advantages — and downsides — of an ergonomic office and provide a solution for employees to proactively improve their setup at no cost to them.
- Partner with Local Vendors
Companies that weren’t originally remote-first likely have employees located in the same geographic area, barring a few exceptions. In those cases, businesses can partner with local vendors to provide ergonomic home office equipment to the team, at a wholesale discount. When employees are located in different geographies, HR leaders can seek out national vendors that can offer discounted rates for bulk orders despite the multiple shipping locations.
- Provide Ergonomics Training
Most often, while employees are aware that they need certain items to enhance their home office experience, they do not fully grasp the importance of an ergonomic design. Companies can provide training and guidelines to help employees make more informed decisions when shopping for their offices.
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