TELEWORKING, WILL IT BE A TREND TOWARDS HOME OFFICE AFTER COVID-19?

The philosophy of many companies, mainly service companies, which make it possible to have no physical presence in the offices, was already focused on flexible schedules and on the reconciliation of work and professional life, facilitating teleworking for their employees to work from home on the basis of projects and objectives. In recent years, the disappearance of the traditional office concept has clearly evolved into two new concepts: coworking and home office. This was already a reality, more than a trend.

But the health crisis caused by COVID 19 and the confinement of the population has meant and will mean a new conception of life and work for all people, which will undoubtedly leave us a before and after in many aspects and conceptions of life. But it will also have taught us that teleworking is a possible option, for companies and for people who would never have considered it if it had not been for a need like this.

A RAPID RESPONSE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS SITUATION

The home office is the main protagonist of a new way of working that arises to respond to current circumstances. It is incredible the agility with which many companies and workers have adapted to this new situation in an act of collective and social responsibility to stop the expansion of the great global enemy of the year 2020, the coronavirus. In a major effort and against the clock, companies have “set their sights” on finding alternatives; computer consultants and technicians, as well as communications companies have not stopped working to set up operations and systems that would respond to the needs of companies, freelancers and professionals, to protect their workers, themselves and their environment from the risk of contagion from COVID 19.

In this way, companies and workers have been able to benefit from teleworking to achieve a lesser evil within this health, social and economic crisis we are facing. But the question is whether, after overcoming this situation, these people and companies will continue to see it as a lesser evil, as a solution to a problem, or whether they will start to see it as an efficient and possible solution in the working environment. What is clear is that new technologies make it possible for us to work administratively, commercially and officematically from anywhere in the world, accessing information and resources without having to step into the office.

WHAT IS REMOTE WORKING

Remote working or “home office”, means being able to perform professional and work tasks from an alternative location to the usual one, such as home, a cafe or a coworking space, among others.

Thanks to the digital transformation, SMEs and large companies have reflected on the fact that remote work is an option their workers may wish to have.

Teleworking and distance training are now strongly present at the operational level, the home office and study spaces are also incorporated into the family environment, becoming a channel for new forms of work through ergonomic and versatile equipment, supported by the resources and tools offered by new technologies.

The challenge lies in the ability to transfer to the home the same guarantees that already exist in offices and educational centres, while promoting cooperation, teamwork and the autonomy of each user.

By not being in the same place of work, synergy may be lost. For this reason it is necessary that all parties involved within the same project maintain communication, exchange information and are connected so that they can share files and online resources smoothly.

Holding virtual meetings helps the correct development of the projects and holding them at the end of each day allows for monitoring the reality of the company’s work.

There is a great variety of tools and platforms at our disposal that make it possible for the team to communicate and unite from a distance, in a way that promotes both productivity and creativity.

BUT IS TELEWORKING THE BEST OPTION?

To implement teleworking, an organisational culture is needed in which work by objectives and trust in the worker are paramount.

It is likely that teleworking instantly transmits to the worker an ideal of absolute flexibility in which he or she can do and undo as he or she pleases, but the truth is that for teleworking to be effective it is far from this. You can’t go from working in an office to working at home without taking action.

These include establishing a routine, getting dressed and not working in your pyjamas, maintaining a daily work schedule, avoiding distractions, isolating yourself from noise, and letting your family know that, even though you are at home, you are working and cannot attend to your tasks and the events at home, and having a properly equipped space available. Just as work spaces in companies and coworking require ergonomic, friendly and specially cared for environments, the creation of a fixed work space at home is essential if teleworking is presented as the usual work option.

And at this point, we wonder if every home has enough space to allocate part of it to create a work space. Not in vain, during this crisis of COVID 19, Prevention of Occupational Risks reminded companies of the need for a self-evaluation of the job of those workers who were preparing to telework from home. We recall the validity of RD468/96 and ergonomic recommendations and regulations for the workplace.

To answer the question in this section, we must also take into consideration the need for social relations that people have, and certainly, this crisis of the COVID-19 that has forced us to a necessary confinement, will make us now more than ever assess this need we have to leave home and relate to colleagues, people, change places, … Finally, assessing whether teleworking is the best option that the company can offer will depend on a vital personal assessment of each worker.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WORKSPACE

We must allocate a more or less spacious place in our home to develop our professional activity. The ideal is that this space includes a complete and independent room that is not dedicated to other domestic use, but this is not always possible, you can choose to create individual spaces by using screens or use cabinets to delimit the space destined to domestic work use, to create your particular home office.

In this confinement, probably the great forgotten has been the creation of the home-office work space. The extraordinary and urgent need that arose from one day to another, has focused all efforts on creating computer and telematic operations that allow remote work, and we must recognize that it has been and is possible to telework from the point of view of access to information and tools needed to do so as if we were in the same office. But are we doing so in the necessary conditions, and has the same attention been paid to evaluating the ergonomic conditions of space that allow work to be carried out effectively and to promoting the well-being and health of people at work? We understand that the answer is a no, the exceptional circumstances have led us to improvise and adapt practically to what everyone already had at home, so that in those homes where a work area or a study area had already been created, it has been used and probably 24 hours a day in rotation for different members of the family; in other cases, any chair in the kitchen, the dining room, a bedroom, a corner,… will have been improvised to create a workplace, surrounded by noise and distractions, which are also inevitable in this exceptional situation.  But as an exception, it can and must be valid, but this is not the idea of being able to work from home, nor can the latter be considered a desirable option.

Having a fixed work space and properly conditioned to develop teleworking is as essential and necessary as the remote work itself. Therefore, we must emphasize the importance of the home office as a work space to design, plan and create within the home.

HOW TO CREATE A COMFORTABLE AND EFFICIENT HOME OFFICE

When we design a teleworking space at home, we create a home-office area, we must do it with the same requirements, care and demand, in terms of ergonomics, as if it was designed for an office or a coworking. It is evident that it will be conditioned by an aesthetic that must be integrated into the home itself and by a respect for the space that is more or less reduced or ample.

We must pay attention to essential ergonomic aspects such as lighting, soundproofing, ventilation of the space and of course the furniture, with special interest in the work chair, depending on the hours you are going to spend working with display screens. In addition, you should take care of your posture and encourage mobility.

We must not forget all the environmental factors that contribute to improving our environment, especially efficient lighting. The ideal is to work in spaces that enjoy as much natural light as possible, but if this is not possible, we will always have the option of incorporating lighting elements that simulate the sunlight as much as possible and that, in addition, provide a warm, pleasant, functional and productive touch to our office or mini-space dedicated to teleworking, but using LEDs or low energy lights. Responsible use of paper and ink, try to print only what is necessary, recycle papers, etc.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE FURNITURE FOR YOUR HOME OFFICE

Your teleworking day should take place in a space as similar as possible to a standard work station or office. Therefore, as far as furniture is concerned, you should have two basic pieces of furniture: a table and a chair.

Your teleworking space should have a table with an appropriate height between 72 and 76 cm, it can also be adjustable in height, ideally it should have a fixed place, therefore it is not necessary to have wheels, but if the space of the house should be multifunctional an option are the tables with wheels or the folding ones, but it entails the inconvenience of assembling and disassembling your space, connecting your PC or laptop, documentation, etc.

The auxiliary furniture where to store documents is less and less relevant due to the tendency to use digital formats avoiding paper. But any furniture will be valid without affecting the ergonomics of your home office, being also evident that its integration in the decoration of the space will be decisive.

Sound absorbing screens, plants in flower boxes, mobile or fixed windows, that is to say, separated or isolated from noise, if the work space is shared with other spaces in the home it will be fundamental to choose your home office furniture to create a welcoming space.

The operating chair, a suitable work chair, comfortable and ergonomic must be the essential piece of a home office space. What chair do we recommend? The great advantage is that each user can choose their own chair and that is the best news, because the comfort, the adaptation of a chair to its user depends on each person. However, we can say that the best way not to make a mistake is to choose a chair that is not only comfortable and ergonomic, but also does not take up too much space and offers a neutral design, such as the PEPER chair with a mesh back in its white or black version (depending on how it adapts to the home office space in which it is integrated) and an upholstered seat in neutral tones such as black, grey or beige.

If you prefer an upholstered back, we recommend that you avoid models with large polypropylene surfaces, the so-called plastic shells for a simple aesthetic reason, which may not fit into every space. The WING operating chair is an excellent choice because of its aesthetics with a fully upholstered back, as well as its ergonomics and comfort.

If you have a space intended solely for teleworking within an office, the options for the operating chair do not need to focus on lightening the space or on an aesthetic that can be integrated into shared spaces; therefore, any of the technical operating chairs you find on our website will meet the needs of an ergonomic and effective home office, but it is important to remember: height-adjustable, swivel seat with height-adjustable lumbar volume, inclination-adjustable back (applicable standard UNE-EN 1335). We could recommend a look at the NEW LIGHT, TOP and ARC chairs.

HOME OFFICE RISK ASSESSMENT

We remind again that companies must evaluate the risks of their workers while teleworking at home. A self-assessment by the user is allowed by ORP, which should already lead us to a reflection on the importance of this aspect. If teleworking is to be based on trust in the responsibility of the worker, let us extend that responsibility to such a self-assessment.

Some companies have chosen to provide their teleworkers with the necessary equipment and means to work from home in a comfortable and efficient way, and three elements would be basic: a laptop, software and basic tools for remote communication, and a corporate operating chair.

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