As companies have started their return to the office, many of us have found ourselves occupying liminal spaces throughout the workweek. Any number of return-to-work policies may create these situations, but many employees aren't quite office-bound or fully remote. While it's tempting to recreate all the luxuries of the office at home, sometimes this isn't fully attainable.
Consider your situation and design an at-home workspace that makes appropriate compromises with the tools you're provided at the office. For employers, this may involve making concessions or providing assistance to ensure productivity doesn't wane when the workforce isn't under one roof.
What's Your Situation?
Not all work-from-home vs. work-from-work situations look the same. Depending on your structure, your priorities might shift as you create a home office that works with the corporate office:
A-day or B-day: A common tactic has been a structured staggering of employees alternating days in and out. Some offices aren’t as rigid, allowing employees to set their own on-site/WFH schedule.
Here and There: There might not be any rhyme or reason why an employee is on-site or at home, but there's still a healthy amount of time spent in both places. This might be on an as-needed or "I'll be there a couple of days throughout the week" basis. Time spent in either space can be increased or decreased depending on need.
Fully Ready for Remote: As cases rise and fall, there's still massive uncertainty surrounding everything. You may be maintaining an at-home workspace that's fully functional but largely unused… For now.
What Isn't Necessary?
A few accommodations are nice to have—a giant purified water cooler, 4-tray copier, or industrial coffee pot at the ready—but aren't feasible in residential spaces. While many of these can be replicated on a smaller scale, a few things can only be available during on-site hours.
Structure your workload and workflow around larger or unique items. Shared supplies, organizational tools, mailroom needs, and other items are difficult to accommodate outside the workplace, so plan your day around what you need versus what you can work with at home.
What Is Non-Negotiable?
You can probably get away with a Brita, Mr. Coffee, and a simple printer, but your workday needs go beyond luxuries or shared necessities. These are often the tools we use to make our workday workable from our designated workstations. As you design your home office space, look toward these easy add-ons to mirror the comforts of the office with the comforts of home:
2 Monitors? More Like 4 Monitors: If you need to have multiple programs running at once or are simply used to working with 2 monitors, a worthwhile investment might be an at-home set of monitors in addition to your setup at work.
You Raise Me Up: If you're used to a sit-to-stand desk or are experiencing posture problems at home, outfit your desk with a desktop riser. This will offset the cost of an expensive motorized height-adjustable desk while providing ergonomic comfort all day.
Delightful Desking: As you power through workdays at home, you may have noticed that the kitchen table or living room couch isn't a great place to work. Invest in the right desk and chair setup now, as there may still be quite a bit of work-from-home left. It was understandable to put off outfitting a corner of your house or a lesser-used spare bedroom—we all thought this would be over with much sooner—but there's still time to get a lot of use out of your home workspace.
Simple Storage: While keeping in line with your home décor scheme, add storage solutions into your workspace to keep office supplies, files, and workday necessities tucked away outside of work hours or on your on-site days. These can do double-duty with household storage, ensuring you still get the same use out of your residential space, even when it's a makeshift office.
Take It With You: When you're stuck between 2 places, you'll need a way to bring your must-haves with you. Invest in a padded, safe laptop case that's designed to take a hit. If you also use a lot of files, ensure that your bag is large enough to contain them.
How Can Employers Help?
Besides making the policy decisions that dictate work-from-home schedules, employers' choices can ensure the success of every employee, no matter where they work. Even though 2020 has been rife with catastrophe and entropy, there are surefire ways to make sure that your employees can keep working as well as possible. Accommodations to make sure everybody is comfortable and safe can take on many shapes and forms, but to facilitate at-home productivity, it's worth providing assistance through your HR department.
Some companies have had success in creating a rebate, discount, or package program to help their remote and partially-remote employees feel comfortable in their homes. This can range from assistance with a desk/chair/storage setup or something as simple as extra office supplies to stay stocked in either location. As for extra monitors—you may have some old technology in storage or consider negotiating a deal to bulk-purchase screens for employee at-home use.A partially-remote setup can only function if employees aren't required to move bulky desktop computers back and forth. Using laptops and docking stations full-time has become more cost-effective and convenient. If you're struggling to implement these big changes, know that it's a change for the better that can keep every employee healthy and happy.