Over the past couple of years many of the nation’s workforce had to manage working from home due to the impact of the pandemic which created new working environments for many. People sought space within their own homes to work, some perching on the end of a bed or working from the kitchen table. People did their best and worked where they could but in many cases the space was far from perfect but simply ‘had to do.’
Now, as the pandemic eases there are many options available to the workforce of today, and no doubt years to come as many seek a hybrid working scenario with days spent working from home. For many, gone are the daily commute each and every day but there is a more pressing need to consider working from home and creating the right, safe and appropriate space to work from.
Steve Bays, Managing Director of Century Office Equipment, a family business based in Colchester, has made his career out of designing commercial office spaces and in the past couple of years has developed his knowledge of spatial awareness to the design of home offices too. As Steve is quick to point out, “There is a world of difference between the requirements of a commercial office space and the needs for someone working from home, converting a spare bedroom or another space in the house into a good working environment.”
“There is a need for anyone working from home to assess the space, their needs and to comply with regulations, not least to ensure compliance with home insurance requirements,” adds Steve.
“Rules and regulations in terms of employee welfare and working conditions exist in the formal ‘office environment’ but less is formally documented when it comes to working from home, even in more of a part-time or hybrid capacity,” he continues.
To help people consider the best ways to create a home office space, Steve has produced a checklist of things that need to be considered in order to make the space the safest place to work, and one that looks after the long-term health and wellbeing of the individual:
- The position of the desk is important. People should not face a window directly or have their back to a window unless there are blinds to diffuse the light as bright light and reflections can cause headaches.
- A proper office chair that meets HSE and DSE requirements should be used which will be height, back and angle adjustable. An ergonomic chair which can be positioned to fit the body is recommended.
- Any monitor on the desk should be positioned at eye level to ensure good posture and alleviate potential neck and back issues.
- For anyone using a laptop a good laptop holder is recommended to raise the top of the screen to eye level, again to alleviate back and neck issues.
- A remote keyboard is also recommended. Keeping the keyboard close, and directly in front of your body also reduces the potential for neck and upper back issues.
- A remote mouse is also beneficial as it can be placed in the right space, to the side of the keyboard and reduce the potential to over-reach.
- The size of the desk should also be considered. Ideally, a desk should be around 800mm deep and 725mm tall and a sit/stand desk offers more proven benefits to health and work performance.
- The choice of seat is also important, especially when it comes to fire insurance. Office seating for comfort and durability has a lower fire rating than domestic furniture and may have insurance implications in the home and consideration as to the need for fitting a fire door to an office inside the home is recommended.
- Think about ventilation, good ventilation is good for health.
- The electrics in the home office also need to be checked. Within a commercial office environment, work equipment is regularly PAT tested but frequently overlooked in home offices. Plugs should not be overloaded and it is worth considering an individual switch block or micro-fused extension leads for safety reasons.
- Lighting within a commercial office environment is closely regulated as part of the working environment so in the home office consider lighting, as bright solid lighting can cause issues with monitors (reflections) and eyes can become sore/strained if the light in the office is not sufficient, especially if working for long periods of time.
- Most commercial carpets are anti-static, whereas home carpets tend not to have this specification and can cause issues that can affect the performance of computers.
Creating the right home office environment is not something that can be done without consideration and like most things in life it is good to plan or seek advice from experts. Working from home looks set to stay for many as part of a hybrid working solution, and may become part of a recruitment process for many businesses where people want the flexibility of working, for some time at least, from home.
As Steve has outlined, there are lots of things to think about and employers have a duty of care to their employees in terms of their working environment and how to create the right office spaces for them to work in. “The level of regulation of home office spaces is likely to come under more scrutiny going forward as an element of working from home becomes the norm for many and there are simple questions that can be asked to assess the suitability of the home office to ensure it does not affect the health and wellbeing of an individual or their ability to be productive and do their job” adds Steve.
“First and foremost there are so simple steps to consider when designing a home office and these can make a massive impact in the long run, not just for the individual and their health and wellbeing but also in terms of their productivity too. It is something that needs to be given more consideration too” concludes Steve.
For more information or to contact Steve, visit www.century-office.co.uk