4 Easy Ways to Help Your Employees Set Up a Healthy Home Office
Why a Home Office Set Up Matters for Remote Employees’ Well-being
Various studies have shown that the physical working environment has a significant effect on employee well-being and productivity. According to Jennifer A. Veitch, “we have emotional responses to the places we occupy” and our well-being and productivity are highly affected by these responses. There is a direct correlation between the perceived desirability of the work environment and the mood, meaning that when a healthy home office is created, employees’ morale, satisfaction, and engagement improve as well.
Companies spend time and effort to prevent poor physical working conditions including improper lighting, poor ergonomics, poor air quality, excessive noise, etc. mainly to create a hazard-free environment and avoid work-related injuries. They benefit from office design ideas such as the biophilic design, quiet rooms, having treadmills and standing desks. Sometimes they prefer to work with ergonomic consultants to inspect the workspaces that need improvement, in order to protect the physical well-being of the employees and promote a healthy work culture.
But what about the home office setting?
The pandemic transformed the way we all work and the way HR approaches creating a physical employee environment that is healthy and safe. We had offices ergonomically designed for the needs of employees and an organizational culture that promotes wellness, but now everyone is working from home. It is crucial to continue providing support to remote employees on proper ergonomics and working conditions because working under poor conditions for long periods can stress body functions and the mental well-being of employees.
Four Tips to Improve Your Workforce Home Office Setting
1. Budget-Friendly Ergonomic Options
One of the injuries that is mainly observed due to an improper office setting is musculoskeletal injuries. Musculoskeletal injuries and disorders (back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, tension neck syndrome, etc.) are the most common employee diseases and according to IFEBP Workplace Wellness Trends 2019 Survey Report, they have the most impact on the overall organizational healthcare costs.
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has detailed information related to the physical dimensions and other features of ideal ergonomic office furniture. Big companies like Google and Twitter give allowances and reimburse their employees for their home office furniture and equipment expenses. This may not be feasible for many companies, but there are affordable ergonomic options. You may not be able to provide a full ergonomic office set-up for each employee, but you can consider purchasing small affordable equipment such as footrests, keyboard and mouse wrist rest, noise-cancelling headphones, or a furniture corner protector if they have desks with sharp corners. Lower back/lumbar pillows are great for reducing lower back pain and improving body posture.
There are online office ergonomic guideline courses for your employees, that are offered at affordable prices. If that does not work for you, here are some visual resources of a healthy home office that you can share with your employees;
2. Proper Lighting
Poor lighting can cause headaches, eye strains, and low quality of sleep which eventually results in lower employee performance. The results of a 2020 research about “the impact of optimized daylight on the sleep duration and cognitive performance of office workers” demonstrates that when the participant employees worked in an office with more natural light, they slept 37 minutes longer and scored higher on strategic thinking cognitive tests such as planning actions, setting goals, improving organizational effectiveness, etc. This is related to the circadian rhythms of our bodies, which regulate the sleep cycle and is highly impacted by exposure to light.
You should encourage your employees to arrange a proper area in their home with enough natural light. If they have a space in front of the windows, make sure that their computer screen is not facing the window to reduce the glare on the monitor. Here is a great source for ergonomic tips for reducing glare on computer screens.
If your employees do not have a well-lit working space or an office with no windows, there are inexpensive light therapy lamps that mimic the sunlight. These lamps are designed to fight the seasonal depression that primarily occurs in the winter months, but they are great for anyone who requires increased sunlight in their home.
3. Indoor Plants
In their research, Largo-Wight et al. found that when nature contact at work increases, the level of stress among employees decreases. Raanaas et al. stated in their study that “indoor plants in an office can prevent fatigue during attention-demanding work.” Similarly, the results of the field experiments “the relative benefits of green versus lean office space” conducted in 2014 by Nieuwenhuis et al. show that green office spaces increase employee satisfaction, productivity, and their overall well-being and contribute to the organizational output. Apart from these findings, indoor plants also reduce the noise in the office, clean the air, and they look great in any office and home decoration.
You can encourage your employees to have more indoor plants around their workspace and order a desk or floor plant for them with a little notecard to improve their well-being and productivity. (We did that at WorkTango for all of our staff and employees loved it!) There are plenty of affordable trouble-free, easy-to-care, pet-friendly plants that fit your employees’ requirements. It is a great way of showing your employees that you care about their needs.
4. Air Quality
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “indoor air quality is an important determinant of health and wellbeing.” Indoor air quality is a health and safety concern and it also affects employees’ productivity. Studies show that the perceived air quality has a direct impact on the performance and productivity of the employees. An experiment which was conducted on panelists in a university classroom kept conditions such as odor intensity, humidity, carbon dioxide concentration, and temperature constant and subsequently changing them demonstrated that when these parameters are constant for a long period, performance and the concentration of the panelists on various tests gradually decreased over time and refreshing the air had a positive impact on the concentration of the panelists.
Having indoor plants is one way to purify the air in our homes. Air purifiers and humidifiers are good equipment for fresh, clean air and a healthy environment. However, refreshing air can also be done simply by opening the windows, so sending reminders to employees about opening the windows and the benefits of air circulation in their homes can be a good idea.
It seems that remote and hybrid work will be the “future of work” and it is crucial for the success of your businesses to maintain a productive and engaged workforce. Your employees will be motivated and more productive when they see your investment in their well-being. These recommendations show that providing support to your remote employees through a healthy home office does not have to be costly, and the return of investing in improving the physical work environment for your employees is well worth the effort.
About the Author
Gozde Ersoz is a Human Resources scholar who holds multiple degrees including a Master’s Degree in Business Administration and she is currently working as a Health and Wellness Advisor at WorkTango. She loves all animals (even bugs), and she is dreaming of watching opera in La Scala someday.
Check out our guides on workplace culture, employee engagement, and employee surveys. Learn about every aspect of a successful employee voice initiative!
We write on the current challenges HR and organizations are facing in order to support our community. Check out more of our articles here.