Telecommuting, also known as remote working, is becoming increasingly popular. It allows employees to work from home, drastically reducing office expenses, workers’ commuting costs and the environmental footprint of commuting.
Remote working is enabled by technologies such as laptops, smartphones, the Cloud and video conferencing services like Skype. Technology makes communication and collaboration as efficient as working in the same office and just as easy.
Organisations implementing telecommuting benefit from less staff absenteeism and turnover, reduced operational expenditure, and increased productivity. Key to the success of remote working is the setting up of proper home offices. By following simple guidelines on areas including equipment and desktop organisation, the home office enables a happier, more efficient workforce.
- One of the most attractive benefits of telecommuting is increased productivity. Research into the practice indicates that factors like a quieter and more comfortable working environment results in workers being better able to focus and manage their time. Telecommuters are less likely to take sick days, tend to work longer hours and are less likely to quit.
An experiment by Harvard Business Review found that call centre employees at a travel website were about 13 per cent more productive than full time employees. This equates to nearly an extra day of work per week per home-worker. Over the nine month period of the experiment, the company estimated savings to be close to two thousand dollars per employee.
All remote workers reported higher job satisfaction and were found to have less “work exhaustion” in a psychological attitudes survey as well.
Telecommuting is not suitable for everyone and is particularly favoured for older workers with established social lives and parents. This is because the social lives of these types of workers are less connected with the office and therefore loneliness is less of an issue. Employees in roles such as proofreading and web development as well as professionals and senior managers are well-suited to remote working.
Those with a high level of telephone-based work are also good candidates. Positions like these have outputs that are easy to monitor and the more specialist roles are performed by highly self-motivated individuals who will thrive in a home office environment. Equipped with a proper home office setup, these types of workers are likely to enjoy remote working and be more productive.
- One of the most important aspects of creating a home office is ensuring there is a designated workspace. While there does not need to be an entire room for the purpose, whatever area is decided upon should be clearly defined.This establishes a threshold for the workspace so that the worker and any other inhabitants of the home can clearly see the boundaries of the work environment.
This helps eliminate disturbances and interruptions while maximising productivity. If there is a spare room or guest bedroom, the space can be redesigned to accommodate the necessary furniture, equipment and storage. The room can be multipurpose, as long as the workspace is clearly defined. When a separate room is not possible, a nook on a landing or part of a living room can be utilised.
The work area can be easily defined using furniture, screens or different flooring. If more than one type of work is involved such as computer-based and non-computer work, separate zones within the workspace can be established through the use of colour and styling.
When separating the work area from the home environment, there are several things that should be considered. These include the type of work, the necessary equipment and whether colleagues or clients will be visiting. It is also important to consider the time of day that work will be conducted and the usual habits of the household. Natural light should be a consideration also.
Comfortable Working Environment
- It is imperative that the working environment is comfortable but this is different to being comfortable at home while relaxing. Just like a business office, the home office should be equipped with an ergonomic chair.
Working from a sofa, armchair or dining chair will be detrimental to the long-term health of the spine and will impact on motivation and productivity. A suitable chair and desk should be sought that meets the requirements of the role, accommodating computer equipment or creative space accordingly.
The work area should be well-lit with natural light and existing lighting supplemented with lamps or different bulbs as necessary. The colour of the workspace should be considered, as should factors such as noise and temperature. Positioning of furniture and screens can help to eradicate noise and a portable heater or air-conditioner can be utilised to maintain optimum temperature.
- Remote workers require equipment that enables the efficient performance of their role as well as communication with clients and co-workers. In addition to a suitable chair and desk, there should be storage facilities for stationery and filing. Storage can be freestanding or integrated with the desk. Drawers and shelves could be erected for additional storage also.
There needs to be adequate space for computer equipment like laptops, monitors and backup drives. If a printer, copier or scanner is required, these should be located within the home office wherever possible. An all-in-one device can be the best solution for a small working environment.
There should be a reliable internet connection and the positioning of wired or wireless equipment should be considered so that it is easy to connect computers and smartphones. For communication, a landline telephone may be required and this should be situated on or within easy reach of the desk.
Tools and Supplies
- Although a lot of work is carried out using technology like computers and smartphones, it is still important for home offices to be equipped with tools and supplies like stationery, calendars and file folders. Workers may need to take notes or dictation or simply work best when they are able to write things down. It may also be important to create physical letters and documents for which appropriate paper is required.
The specific tools required vary according to the type of work but basic stationery supplies include items like pens, pencils and note pads.
Depending on the role and the individual, things like paper clips, staplers, hole-punchers and sticky notes may be necessary. Desk and drawer organisers are essential to keep tools and supplies organised within the home office.
- As with a business office, the home office should be free of clutter. Studies have indicated that clutter has a negative effect on concentration and efficiency. Therefore, it is crucial to implement desktop organisation. Only tools and supplies essential to the specific role should be kept and these should be organised according to frequency of use and importance.
Stationery like pens and pencils could be kept in a pencil-pot on the desk or in an organiser in the top desk drawer. For roles with paperwork, there should be paper trays and files. There should be clearly designated desk areas for items such as laptops and phones.
Cords should be hidden as much as possible and tidied with cable ties if necessary. It is important that consistency and regular purging is applied to desktop organisation for the maintenance of efficiency and productivity.
Storage Solutions and Organisation
- In addition to desktop organisation, it is important that the home office has sufficient storage and is well organised. A lack of storage space can lead to clutter and disorganisation so appropriate storage should be sought depending on the role. Examples include filing cabinets, cupboards and drawers.
Disposal of old documentation and rubbish should not be overlooked which makes the provision of bins and shredders vital. The main desk should have integrated drawers as these are ideal for frequently used items and documents. For roles involving a lot of hand-written work, traditional bureaus are a convenient and compact way of creating additional desk and storage space.
Filing cabinets are essential when there are numerous documents and projects to manage, as such an established organisational system keeps paperwork collated and readily accessible.
Shelves are an easy way to create extra storage space and they are well suited to less frequently used items like reference books or smaller filing systems like ring-binders. As with desktop organisation, consistency is the key to an efficient and productive workspace.
Telecommuting is an excellent way of attracting and keeping diverse workforces. Benefits of telecommuting include increased efficiency, productivity and cost savings. Workers no longer have to commute, reducing environmental footprint, expenditure and stress.
Proper home office setup is crucial for employees to stay productive. By defining the workspace, providing necessary furniture, tools and supplies, it is easy to establish a home office.
The home office needs to be both functional and comfortable and should be tailored to specific roles and routines. With correct implementation, remote working allows workers complete control over the workspace and allows organisations to experience numerous benefits.