Across the US, states are starting to gradually reopen. Employees are returning to the office as companies across the United States respond to the changing guidelines. While many workers are returning to physical workspaces, many are still working from home wondering, what next?
Facing the Uncertainty
I am fortunate enough to work as most writers do – from the inside of my 400 square foot studio apartment. I worked from home before the pandemic began and will likely continue to work from home after. However, many others don’t have the luxury of staying home right now. Many are continuing to go to work every day to provide the essential services that keep cities moving. Some are just now starting to return to work. For many, there’s still just uncertainty.
We are all facing these challenges in different ways. But as we continue further down the path of this “new normal,” it’s smart to start asking how you can prepare for what comes next. Investing in your home office space now could make the difference in your ability to succeed professionally in this changing world.
The shifting concept of office space
Why should you begin to think about your home space as a more permanent resource? Many companies are starting to reconsider the cost of physical space. A recent report by the Cognizant Center for the Future Work found that “telework could save firms up to $11,000 per worker per year”. It’s not just employers that will profit; telecommuters will benefit as well. The same report found that workers could save up to $7,000 a year in spending categories such as transit, child care, and apparel.
Before COVID-19, many institutions viewed work from home as incompatible with their priorities. Some wondered about the impacts on productivity and collaboration. However, as more employees began to work from home, the limitations of virtual conferencing and work started to be outweighed by the benefits and savings. The monetary advantages have led many to rethink their policies, even in a post-COVID-19 world.
Four likely changes according to 237 global companies
According to a recent survey by UniSpace of 237 global companies, the following four changes are likely after COVID-19.
- The overall office footprint will shrink
- Staff will work from home at least 2-3 days per week
- Companies will send staff back in waves
- Video conferencing will replace most audio conferencing, phone calls, and face-to-face external meetings
So now what?
The way to adequately prepare will be dependent on your profession and employer. If you are in a job that has transitioned to online work, your home workspace should become a priority. A well-designed area can do wonders for productivity and emotional health. Here are a few tips for how to create an inviting work from home space.
A good chair is key
A quality chair is essential. Lots of current jobs consist of full sedentary workdays. While we should *hopefully* be getting up and stretching every 30 minutes while sitting, it’s hard. And even so, that still means you’re spending a big part of the day sitting in your chair. Your chair should be comfortable, ergonomic, and supportive. For more information, here’s an excellent guide for selecting an office chair.
TL: DR? Focus on a chair with reliable lumbar support, adjustable height options, and sufficient padding.
Have a dedicated work surface and personalize it
Make sure you have a desk. Or a table. Any work surface will do, make sure you use it for work, and only work (if possible). I like to keep my desk organized and uncluttered. I recommend you do the same. An established area for you to work and a supportive chair are the essential building blocks for a productive space.
Once you have your building blocks, don’t forget to personalize. Personal photographs, plants, or any other personal items can elevate your space. It’s always important to actively work towards creating an inviting space.
Focus on your hardware
You now have a good chair, a clean workspace, and some personal touches. Now it’s time to focus on the things that elevate your workstream. Hardware is key. If your office space consists of multiple monitors, see if there is any way to replicate your setup at home. The right keyboard and a suitable computer mouse are also crucial. With the proper hardware, you’ll find yourself feeling productive and well equipped to take on any tasks thrown your way.
Something to consider for your home office is your video conferencing hardware. We speak of Zoom so often that it is now becoming a generic trademark. As we look towards the future of homework, large chunks of our time will be on video, communicating with colleagues and partners.
An external webcam can take your video presence to the next level. We here at the Webaround are all about supporting your online work by providing video conferencing background tips and helpful guidelines for how to look your best on video.
Do video conferences with a green screen
I always stress the importance of having a green screen (I know, crazy coming from a green screen company). Why would you need a green screen in your home office? It all ties back to the prevalence of video conferencing. Looking at Google Trends for the search term “green screen”, there is a definite spike in traffic that trends with the beginning of the work from home wave.
Green screens can help you create the perfect virtual background. They help create a professional environment around you, regardless of your location. For many professions, green screens address concerns over privacy, appearance, and overall professionalism. A green screen can help silence distractions and capture a participant’s attention. A portable green screen can do all of the above, with the added benefit of flexibility.
We understand that all of the above suggestions come at an expense. Many companies are helping employees finance improvements to home offices, inquire with your company and see if any such programs exist.
Maintain work-life balance
The line between home and work can blur if you don’t actively work towards maintaining a balance between the two. As we mentioned above, teleconferences are likely here to stay. You’ll probably be showing distant coworkers or external contacts the inside of your home. Depending on your living situation, this could impact your work. This is another great reason to invest in a portable green screen. The flexibility of controlling your virtual backdrop by selecting your background image frees you from the prying eyes of unwanted virtual home guests. In a world before work from home, we had autonomy over who we let enter our homes. We should continue to maintain that level of privacy, and a green screen does just that.
What about all the other professions?
As I mentioned above, many workers do not have the ability to work from home. Some professions are facing different challenges related to online work, such as those in education and medicine.
The challenges of telemedicine and virtual education are complex. We will be taking a closer look at the experience of teachers with remote learning in our blog next week. Stay tuned.
To all the essential workers that are keeping our cities moving, we thank and appreciate you. For everyone else, having a better understanding of the future trajectory of your career can help you prepare and create a stellar work environment at home.