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5 Needs for Building the Ideal Home Office


WFH worker with office cat
Image: olezzo -
The work-from-home rush of the last several months has, for those fortunate to be able to work remotely, finally transformed work from a place you go to a thing you do. As organizations move beyond the initial rush to simply establish remote work capabilities and toward viewing remote work more strategically, IT and human resources professionals must come together to optimize the home workspace. This means ensuring that physical and virtual workspaces are able to meet the needs of workers to stay engaged and highly productive.
Here are five areas to address:
  1. Multiple Monitors — Many home workers are now using laptops, perhaps with tablets. In some cases, they are even using their personal home devices until such time as their employer can provision a company-provided computer. These small screens are insufficient for most people to work effectively, especially if they are used to large and/or multiple screens at work. Strive to provision an equal experience at home.
  2. Headsets — Headsets should be comfortable to wear for long periods of time with high audio quality and battery life. Ideally, IT should be able to manage and apply firmware upgrades to the headset remotely. Even more ideal are headsets that integrate with meeting and calling apps to take advantage of functions like on-headset mute buttons. Unfortunately, many companies today still don’t view headsets strategically and instead provide a small stipend or a one-size-fits-all approach to headset provisioning. This needs to change. And, for those individuals who spend most of the day on calls and meetings, consider even a second headset or speakerphone to ensure that they don’t run out of battery life in the middle of a call.
  3. Remote Management — IT must take responsibility for voice/video performance for home workers. That means offering tools to audit wireless networks and to measure home Internet performance. It’s not likely IT will ever own provisioning of residential Internet service, but providing guidance to home workers on procuring sufficient bandwidth and managing QoS, especially when available Internet resources are shared by gamers and video streamers, is critical for ensuring success.
  4. Cameras — For most home workers, a laptop’s built-in camera is sufficient for videoconferencing. But some will have poor, cheap, cameras that detract rather than add to the experience. Executives, as well as those in customer-facing roles, may require higher-quality cameras or executive desktop systems.
  5. Lighting, Backdrops, and Positioning — In my experience, many cameras are ill-positioned for quality video engagements, pointing up at the ceiling or away from the participant. Lighting in home offices can be poor, especially when individuals sit in front of bright windows. Many people today are having fun with virtual backgrounds, but these can be distracting in some cases. Some organizations are issuing backdrops for customer-facing workers to provide a more professional experience or are mandating use of company-standard virtual backgrounds. Here, too, IT can ensure an improved experience by providing guidance and best practices to remote staff.
Beyond physical workspace improvements, organizations should also consider developing wellness programs for home workers. These could consist of virtual exercise classes (on-demand or scheduled), work-life-balance programs, counseling, and other means to deal with the isolation that many home workers may experience, especially at the beginning of their transition. Additionally, organizations must develop a culture of separation. Just because someone is working from home doesn’t mean they are expected to always be available. In my experience, the most successful home workers are those who are able to separate from work by closing the home office door and turning out the lights when the work day is complete.
The home worker experience is new for many of us, and creates, especially in the time of a global pandemic and economic uncertainty, new challenges for staying engaged and productive. Addressing physical workspace concerns and employee well-being is a key role for IT and HR teams moving forward.