It’s safe to say that tough times have fallen upon us all with the outbreak of COVID-19. But, so have new opportunities. What many companies have come to realise is: "Hey, maybe working from home will become the new normal".
With many of us needing to come up with a dedicated workspace at home, you’ve most likely been inundated with tips on how to make the process easier. Things like “how to turn your dining table into your work area” or “use your ironing board as a makeshift standing-desk”. And while these solutions are certainly helpful in desperate times, they are only temporary measures.
But, what if working from home isn’t as temporary as we first thought?
With the extended National Lockdown, followed by the announcement of the different Lockdown Levels, many businesses are left unsure as to when they will be allowed to go back to working in an office. Others, however, are beginning to think even further ahead and see the current situation as an opportunity to save on costs in the long-term.
If employees are able to work from home efficiently now, with the limited resources that they have at home, what’s to say they couldn’t do it full-time? If they’re getting their work done with an extremely basic setup, imagine what could be done with an actual workspace.
Looking at the situation from this angle, employers may see the opportunity to cut down on the extraordinary costs it takes to maintain a functional office environment. The expensive corporate rent, the insurance, the electricity and even the day-to-day necessities like toilet paper and coffee - just to name a few.
Paying employees an additional stipend to cover these costs to work from home could still be far cheaper than maintaining an entire office.
Sure, it won’t work for all industries. But it is a viable option for the hundreds of thousands of people who have already been able to easily adapt to the work-from-home lifestyle
Working from home. Permanently
Many of us were thrown in at the deep end after the announcement of the National Lockdown and having to start working from home. It was a mad rush to figure out how to successfully host a conference call, all while making sure that the kids didn’t barge in or that the dirty dishes weren’t in full view of the camera.
Never mind trying to keep up an exercise routine, home-school the children and making sure you’ve set aside enough time to wait in the acceptably socially-distanced lines at the grocery store.
It took some getting used to, but a daily routine may have slowly started to take shape. And while the kids will eventually go back to school and the lines at the supermarket will return to normal, the routine of working from home could very well be here to stay.
While we know that it’s hard to plan for the future right now, it might be time to start thinking about how to set yourself up to work from home on a more permanent basis.
How do you prepare to work from home?
While your instinct may be to rush out and purchase an office chair, the first step is to really think about the long-term. Ask yourself questions about when you’d like (or need) your home office to be ready and what type of setup you would require.
Where in your home can you set aside the space? Can you fit a desk area in your living room or are you lucky enough to have a spare room that can be turned into an entire office? Do you need to have a space where clients come for meetings or does your job require additional specific equipment?
Knowing how much space you require and where you can realistically have the workspace set up will have an effect on the costs involved in getting you up-and-running. It is also possible that having a home office setup is more of a long-term goal that you have to save towards.
In these current times of uncertainty, it’s best to start small and do things in steps.
Think of everything you need on a day-to-day basis in order to get your work done. These are some of the most common:
- Your first instinct was right - get the office chair!
Try to ensure that you purchase a good-quality, ergonomic chair. Being able to adjust it will help with your everyday comfort levels, posture and preventing back issues.
- Appropriately sized desk
Do you only require a space for a laptop, or are you a designer that needs a separate drawing area? Make sure that your work area is big enough for what you do.
- The necessary equipment
This can be everything from an extension cord and a printer, to a whiteboard and a filing cabinet. Do you need a landline, or can you use VoIP? Think of all the things you use on a daily basis at the office.
- The necessary software
This includes programs you would need in order to replace face-to-face meetings, such as Skype, Teams or Zoom, as well as being able to access software that you use in order to get your job done.
In it for the long haul
Creating the ideal work-from-home space requires being able to separate your work from your home life. In a perfect world, this means that you’ve got the space and the money to invest in it. Whether you’ve got both already, or they’re something you’re working towards, here are some things to consider when setting up a home office:
Choose a room or space with as much natural lighting as possible. Working in a dark room can cause drowsiness and strain your eyes, whereas natural lighting is said to improve concentration and productivity.
- The right equipment
This includes the adjustable chair you’ve hopefully already purchased in your short-term plan mentioned above, as well as a desk that is sized appropriately for the work that you do. A laptop is more adaptable than a desktop computer and can be easily packed up should you have to go to a face-to-face meeting or feel like working from a new spot in your house. You can also consider getting a second monitor as an extra perk, making cross-referencing total bliss!
- High-speed internet access
There is nothing more frustrating than your conference call dropping multiple times or not being able to access web-based programs. Make sure that your internet is suitable for your needs.
Set aside a budget that you’ll need for setting up the perfect office space. Perhaps it’s building an extension to your garage or just a new coat of paint and office furniture in your spare room. Either way, if you don’t have the budget right now, consider applying for a Personal Loan. You may qualify for a Personal Loan of up to R250k from African Bank, which should be more than enough to get the perfect work-from-home office set up!