Companies across the globe are rolling out work from home/remote work protocols amid the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even if the number of new cases were to decline, chances are remote working may last for longer to ensure the health and safety of employees worldwide.
In these uncertain times, it is essential to keep your productivity at its highest to ensure business profitability and allow your business/employer to stay afloat. Lying in bed with your computer or simply sitting in any old chair will not lend any help to improve your productivity, and in the long term will definitely do more harm than good. A home office promotes an ideal working environment and is essential for any home regardless of the current crisis. That said, it has now become more relevant than ever to publish a guideline to setup a perfect home office environment. As such, this blog-post series will detail the aspects to consider when selecting the ideal space to setup your home office.
All things considered, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure the appropriate knowledge and adequate support is provided to employees working at home to ensure they are able to provide maximum productivity and further, the responsibility of the employee to follow guidelines recommended by the employers to maintain peak performance during these times.
As mentioned earlier, in this blog post we will discuss the various aspects one must consider when choosing a location to setup an ideal work environment at home. This will entail topics related to good lighting, maintenance of favorable climate for working, convenient access to power and internet, etc.
Lighting can be an easily overlooked aspect when working from home. Often people don’t think to make additional provisions to your home lighting setup to account for a working space. This can lead to various problems from simple eye strain to severe neck/back pain over time. There are numerous aspects of lighting one needs to consider to ensure visual comfort through the day, including but not limited to brightness, glare, colour temperature, etc.
BRIGHTNESS & GLARE
Home lighting does not require the level of brightness to do complex tasks and as such is often too dimly lit to perform office work. As per the WELL lighting standard, a work space is recommended to have around 300 lux of ambient lighting and close to 500 lux for the work surface for visual acuity to perform tasks that require focus. One must account for sufficient ambient lighting within the space selected, and as a result must be willing to replace the existing lights for higher output bulbs. Regardless of this, additional task lighting would be an ideal investment to consider to provide that extra level of brightness for the work surface.
When adding high brightness sources one must also consider the possibility of glare. Glare can impair or obstruct visual performance and create eye strain, headaches and postural stress. This can often be controlled by using multiple sources to attain the level of brightness required instead of using a singular extremely bright source of light. Layering various light sources to illuminate the space can also provide more complexity and style to the space. One must also ensure no high brightness sources or their reflections are in the direct field of vision of the occupant. Adjustability is key to avoid this problem. When selecting a space to setup the home office, make sure the bright sources of light do not fall into the direct field of vision of the user and also try to use task lighting that allows for lots of adjustability.
COLOUR RENDERING & COLOUR TEMPERATURE
As discussed in brightness, most home lighting systems are designed to encourage a relaxed state of mind and as a result employ warm sources of light. To improve work performance, one should look to invest in cooler light sources (Over 5,000K) to induce more energy during the daytime to promote work performance. Similarly, home lighting will not normally employ light sources of high colour rendering index. This factor is important for accuracy in colour reproduction and tasks where high colour accuracy is required, one must look to replace the existing lighting to account for a high CRI value of over 90.
Keeping in mind the above factors, one must look to enhance the existing lighting to enable optimal performance when working from home. Look to LED options to get a wide variety of options on high efficiency lighting with high output, CRI levels and wide variety of colour temperatures. Keep in mind that high levels of bright light in high colour temperatures throughout the day can hinder your ability to wind down after a day of work and can have significant impact on your sleep cycle.
Setting up your workspace close to a window will allow for maximum utilization of daylight. The natural cycle of daylight from sunrise to sunset will promote a healthy circadian cycle. Keep in mind that facing a window directly or facing directly away from a window will entail glare during the brightest times of the day. This can be resolved by choosing a south facing window (if you are in the northern hemisphere) or a north facing window (if you are in the southern hemisphere) for maximum lighting throughout the day without much risk of direct glare. In addition to this, it would be advisable to setup the workspace close to but perpendicular (90⁰) to the direction of the window.
The latest in smart lighting technology, although expensive allows for complete control over the brightness and colour of the light sources. This will allow for maximum adjustability and allow us to follow our circadian cycles without access to a well-lit space and ensure stress free working to maximum potential.
As opposed to working from an office, an advantage of working from home is you will have more control over the air conditioning settings. This gives us all the more reason to ensure the two most important factors within climate control are met, good air quality and ideal working temperature.
When aiming for high efficiency working, one must ensure good air circulation within the working space. It is common for most people to get carried away when on a deadline, but without good quality air quality is paramount for efficiency. Electronic equipment such as computers are said to release small amounts of undesirable chemicals into the air. This may not have a direct and immediate impact on the occupant but overtime it will lead to productivity losses. The lack of fresh, clean air may not be an obvious factor for many but it will slowly lead to a buildup of pollutants in the air and in turn develop into a phenomenon known as “Sick Building Syndrome” (SBS) which describe a set of symptoms including but not limited to eye irritation, headaches, coughing, and chest tightness. Low levels of clean and fresh air can affect one’s ability to make meaningful decisions. To ensure wellbeing and maximum efficiency, one must look to setup their home office setup in a room or space with adequate ventilation where there is a steady flow of good clean air. If you are looking to spend a bit more for the sake of clean air, there are a variety of air purifiers in the market that will continuously remove impurities from the air within a space.
Temperature control is another aspect of the working environment that needs to be addressed for comfortable working conditions. There is no universally ideal working temperature as it is a factor of personal preference. That said the wrong temperature can affect comfort and therefore efficiency. This may also not be as much of an issue when working from home as there is not as many conflicting interests, but there may be flatmates/roommates/family members at home who do not appreciate the same room temperature you do.
Selecting a work space away from others, preferably in a room with its own thermostat controls would be an ideal means to ensure suitable working climate for maximum comfort and productivity. Be sure to setup your desk away from the direct draft of the AC supply vents or to direct any directional AC grills away from your seat to reduce uncomfortable temperatures and/or dehydration from the dry AC air. Also ensure your AC vents and ducts are regularly and systematically cleaned to reduce dust and germ buildup.
Accessibility is key to optimal working conditions. In the present working environment, the most important tool used when working is the computer. When working from home, the computer and the mobile phone become even more essential. To enable smooth and efficient working one must ensure sufficient access to power outlets to power up your computer, and to keep any mobile devices well charged. Equally important is access to a good network connection. Whether wired or wireless, depending on the type of device there must be data outlets or a Wi-Fi router within easily accessible range to ensure unfettered internet access without which there can be no productivity.
To summarize, when choosing a location to setup the ideal home office one must consider good lighting, good indoor climate and accessibility. Good lighting can mean optimal use of natural lighting by setting up the space at 90⁰ to a North/South facing window (depending on the hemispheric location of the user) and if there is a lack of natural lighting, one must look to raise artificial lighting levels using high quality lighting with high CRI, lux output and daylight colour temperatures. Adjustable task lighting fixtures is essential to avoid shadows on the work surface while avoiding glare. Other ambient sources of light may also come in handy to raise overall ambient lux levels. Ideal indoor climate includes access to fresh & clean air, and comfortable working temperatures. Proximity to a window can ensure access to fresh air and if clean air is hard to come by, investing in an indoor air purifier may be advisable. As far as temperature is concerned, consider a space with its own thermostat to allow meeting personal room temperature preferences. Regardless of access to a thermostat, one must consider a space out of the direct draft from the air conditioner supply. Accessibility concerns easy access to power supply and good internet connectivity to enable smooth and efficient working conditions.
Some additional points to consider are that the chosen space must have adequate real estate for a useable work surface and comfortable seating. While working from home, one may be faced with many distractions. An ideal home office should be distanced from any noise or distractions as this will drain productivity. Regardless of working from home or the office, access to snacks and hydration is paramount to keep energy levels high throughout the day. Once free of distractions, it is easy to lose track of time and stagnate within the new work space. It is important to place a clock within easy view of the work space and keep a rough schedule for regular breaks to walk around, stretch and relax one’s eyes, neck, back, arms and most importantly mind. This will ensure focus and efficiency when performing tasks. Last but not least, one must also consider a space with good subject lighting, a clean and presentable background and low noise levels for the numerous video conferences and online meetings that are ubiquitous in today’s remote work environment.
Keeping in mind these discussed aspects will help you pick out the perfect spot to setup a home office that will keep you working through the week at maximum productivity without any discomfort. With the right considerations, you may even be able to rival your productivity from your actual office.
Does keeping track of all the variables overwhelm you? As an employer, do you feel the need to provide expert advice to customize remote work environments for your key employees to ensure their peak productivity through this crisis period?
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