by Jan Yager, Ph.D.
Whereas remote work was previously associated with freelancers as well as consultants and the self-employed, those working for companies and corporations of all sizes are working remotely anywhere from one to two or more days a week. Even though beginning in 2022 an untold number of workers were mandated to return to their traditional outside offices some or all of the work week, for so many working remotely some or all of the time has become a reality.
What does that mean for those who are concerned with their remote work office space and its impact on their productivity as well as their worker satisfaction? It means that you should consider designing or upgrading your current home office to help you to achieve optimum efficiency and worker satisfaction for yourself.
It also means that the growth of remote work – what used to be called “working from home” or having a “home office” – makes such key considerations for a more effective home office, like location, lightning, furniture, technology, and even time management, issues that need to be address.
Location is key related to remote work. If possible, create a space in your apartment or home that is dedicated to your workspace. If your children are away at college or grown and out the door, consider converting a previous bedroom into a home office. If all bedrooms are being utilized, find a place in your living room or family room or even your kitchen where you can set up a desk, good lightning, and any other furniture or supplies you need for your home office. It should be in a location where there is the least traffic or noise at least during the times of day, or night, when you tend to do your work.
The type and size of your home office is not as important as having a dedicated space for yourself. Some might even want to convert part or all a garage or attic space into a home office. If you think this a trend that is going to be more than just a passing phase for you, the financial and time investment creating an efficient and functional home office space should be a worthwhile investment. Check with your accountant and a real estate agent about the tax or home value considerations related to creating a dedicated home office.
Lightning and Furniture are key concerns for your remote work office space. So many are using videoconferencing to successfully work remotely that you need to take that into consideration when it comes to your lightning. Make sure you can turn any overhead lights shining directly on your computer away from your computer screen if you are doing a videoconferencing on Zoom or Microsoft Teams or the glare will be an unnecessary distraction and annoyance to those to which you are connecting.
Depending upon the size of your remote work office space you will have the minimal furniture of a desk and chair. You might also have storage units or filing cabinets although some desks have one or two file drawers built into the desk and since so many are filing mostly electronically these days, which might be enough file storage space for you.
Your desk chair is one of the most important pieces of furniture in your remote work office space. It needs to be ergonomically designed so that you have maximum support for yourself. The prices may range from $100 to as high as $999. This is of course a business expense, but you may have to foot the bill for it if your employer will not spring for a new chair for you. Do your research about the various chairs available to you and, if possible, visit the office supply store that sells ergonomic chairs, like Staples, or the furniture showroom for business furniture companies so you can sit in the chair and try it out.
There is a lot of discussion about standing desks these days. For some, it is a great option since we have all learned that too much sitting is counterproductive and unhealthy. Some swear by their standing desk and others find it challenging to get used to anything but the traditional desk that they sit at for x number of hours a day. One of the leaders in the standing desk option is Vari® headquartered in Coppell, Texas.
If you have the room for it, a comfortable stuffed upholstered chair or even a sofa that you can grab a cat nap it necessary can be a welcome addition to your remote office. After all, that is one of the perks of a remote office. You can have more control over your time. Without the typical office distractions, with worker more intensely, so, ironically, many find they are getting more, not less, done in their remote office space, although isolation and feeling cut off can be relationship issues to be dealt with. But you can pace yourself better and, if you need it, grab some ZZ’s.
The last topic covered in the original article that will be addressed in this update is technology. Technology can be a friend to anyone working remotely. In addition to the videoconferencing option mentioned earlier, creating, maintaining, and communicating with your database of current and previous clients and projects, as well as projects for new work, is a function of technology today. If you are using a specific system in your outside office, if possible, for consistency, use the same system in your remote office space.
Backing up your projects and data is pivotal to avoid losing some or all your work if there is a computer crash which, unfortunately, does happen. Backing up to the cloud as well as to an external hard drive and/or a flash drive and even saving key documents as hard copy that you can file will go far to keeping your mind at ease. If possible, keep a copy of key work product in a second safe location whether that is locked in your outside office or in a safe deposit box.
Color and Wall Coverings
Several additional points: Since you may be spending many hours one or more days a week, and even on weekends, in your remote office space, consider the color of the walls and even what is on the walls. Paintings or artwork that is uplifting and positive will go far to make your workspace more pleasant.
Finally, do not forget work-life balance even though you are working at home/working remotely. One of the benefits of 9 to 5 is that it imposes a structure on you even if 9 to 5 is really 8 to 6. But remote work has been known to extend into the wee hours of the morning and throughout the weekend jeopardizing that all important romance partner or family time that is pivotal for a full life. So, create a schedule that is realistic and balanced. If you want to work an hour or two on the weekends, first thing in the morning before the rest of the family is up, that is fine. Just try to avoid making it an all-day/all night habit so that remote work, before you know it, has taken over your entire life.
As anyone who has tried to work remotely with small children at home knows, it is a myth that you can multitask working remotely and caring for your children. Of course, if a baby is young enough to be sleeping most of the day, you can work around those nap times, but quite soon, even babies need attention and toddlers, and young children need supervision. So, make arrangements for childcare even though you are at home. Whether that means hiring someone to take care of your children at home when they are not at school and you still have to work, putting them in a trusted, supervised daycare situation, or you and your partner take turns watching the children while the other one works, these are issues remote workers need to deal with.
Lastly, yes, it is possible to stay in your pajamas all day on those days when you do not have a Zoom call and you are alone at your computer for hours on end. But you just might want to get dressed as if you are working in a traditional outside office. It might make it easier to make that important structured separation between home life and work time, so it does not all blend together.
Jan Yager, who has a Ph.D. in sociology, is the author of more than 50 award-winning books including Work Less, Do More and Making Your Office Work for You, originally published by Doubleday and available as an audiobook with an updated Introduction and Equipment chapter, narrated by Jessica Cross.
For more on Jan, including selected article and book excerpts, visit her main website and sign up for her mailing list: https://www.drjanyager.com
Copyright © 2023, 2022 by Jan Yager, Ph.D.
An edited version of this blog was first published in OfficeDesign Newsletter for November 2022. All rights reserved. Reprint requests to the copyright holder, Jan Yager (email@example.com)