The home and the office have officially become “blurred” labels. For those that have a specific room or space in their home, with a door that can be closed to any activity going on, this might not be such a challenge. But for others, loud neighbors, kids and pets can definitely contribute to a very non-professional environment. While there have been many challenges for some to this new type of workspace, it is definitely here to stay for at least a portion of our work weeks.
“My cat decided to walk across my keyboard during my presentation.”
“My teenager started yelling for his lunch as I was speaking to a client.”
“My toddler walked by without a diaper during a team Zoom.”
“I had to take the call from my closet because my partner was on a video chat.”
If these scenarios sound familiar, you understand how disruptive and painful the home office can be. In fact in the United States, sales of premium garden sheds which actually look like small guest houses increased 400% as many needed a space where they could get away from their home distractions to be truly productive. As organizations adopted video conference technology in a much greater way than before the pandemic, the pressure to yet again to turn that video button on after a full day in video meetings has created new challenges.
For those that do have a separated space, it can be easy to become so focused on a project that you forget to take breaks. Organizations used to focus on creating standardized workspaces with the appropriate ergonomic settings to contribute to employee health - or to avoid costly workers compensation claims. Work from home these days might include a kitchen chair and card table where your posture is the last thing you’re thinking about. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), a part of the US Department of Labor that governs safety in the workplace, has become much more lenient in attempting to hold companies accountable for employee work environments in their homes. However, there are still many organizations that are funding specific desks, chairs and keyboards (to mention a few) to ensure that their employees will be ergonomically safe. That said, companies cannot mandate what a home workspace looks like.
There are some strategies to mitigate these issues. Communication with your work teams is paramount to ensuring that your boss and colleagues understand your home office situation. When you can set clear expectations about your limitations, you can greatly reduce the stress of your situation. Many blogs, articles, and even furniture companies are sharing ideas to ensure that we prioritize our environment. For example, Steelcase, a global provider of commercial furniture based in the United States, recommends changing your posture frequently during your day, standing up and walking while on calls, scheduling time to connect with colleagues on a personal level, and even ensuring that you stay close to nature with house plants or sitting close to windows.
Others suggest dedicated “cameras-on” corners set near natural lighting and buying noise cancelling headphones to ensure that you are not disturbed during your video calls. Premium grade headphones have become much more affordable and can ensure your focus as well as an improved sound quality for those listening to you. Other tools that can be helpful include “white noise” machines or even noise apps to create ambient sounds. Textiles in your space such as area rugs and pillows can support sound proofing as well as create a soothing ambiance. Lastly, installing sound-proofing panels on walls or ceilings can help tremendously. Many manufacturers are making these readily available for purchase in small quantities vs. commercial amounts.
When you can create a space with the ideas mentioned, and you can ensure you focus on your personal wellness, a home workspace can not only be achievable, but desirable.
As the home becomes more of a multi-tasking place, we can still be highly productive and enjoy a sense of peace.