MP chatted with Dave Adams, Vice President of Marketing and Merchandising at BDI, a leading manufacturer of contemporary, design-focused furniture for home office and entertainment spaces, about working form home. Adams brings over 20 years of experience in the furniture industry, specializing in product design, merchandising, and global marketing. A lover of technology and all things modern, Adams is a believer in the power of great design to positively impact the quality of everyday life.
How important are comfort and quiet when working from home, and why is this the case?
It’s easy to realize that you must be comfortable and focused when working from home. You are surrounded by the daily distractions of family, TV, chores, and any other ways that you may instead be spending your time.
Finding, or creating, the comfort and quiet to work effectively is essential, but it does not happen by accident. It takes a concerted effort.
Many of us did not naturally have a home office space ready to go once we suddenly began to work from home. We were making do with whatever solution was available, so finding that ‘away’ space was next to impossible.
Over time, out of choice or necessity, we have started to create spaces that are our own – dedicated to work and productivity.
It may be reasonable to think that, when working from home, people are less productive than they may be in the office, but that is not usually the case.
Numerous studies have measured the productivity gains achieved when employees have greater personal control over their comfort.
Some research even suggests it can raise productivity between 2.7% and 8.6%.
That’s why creating a quiet, comfortable place to work is tantamount to a more efficient workday.
The top three features identified as the essential part of an effective workspace were all directly related to physical comfort: the desk, chair, and temperature control.
This is, even more the case for those who work from home and may have more distractions—such as other family members working from home or kids and pets.
Creating a work sanctuary that allows you to focus on the task is critical to doing work from home work! If you are not working in an office providing comfort and inspiration, you are doing yourself a disservice.
What three out-of-the-box tips can you share to help our readers working from home create a space that works for them, and why these three?
Unfortunately, all too often, the environment many create when working from home is an afterthought and isn’t designed to suit their needs during the workday.
That’s why it’s critical to plan for three things when setting up a home office space:
1. Create a Space That is Yours
With everything from package deliveries to pets or kids underfoot to others working in the home, several distractions can make the home office a less-than-ideal working environment.
That’s why it’s critical that you first carve out a designated area strictly for work, which helps you separate your home office from the daily commotion of a busy house.
A designated area helps you get in the mindset and indicates to others in the home that you are “at work” and need to be left alone.
If you have the luxury of your own dedicated office space, be sure you incorporate office furniture that is comfortable and gives you the space you need to work, and allows you to incorporate your style into the space.
After all, it is still part of your home!
If space is limited, or if the office must share space with another room in the house, such as the bedroom or living room, using dividers or tall shelves can help block out distractions from the other side.
Shelves can also double as storage for your work essentials.
2. Get Organized
Excessive clutter provokes unnecessary stress and anxiety, leaving you feeling disorganized and unfocused.
Keep loose files, documents, and essential materials tucked away in compact, conveniently accessible cabinets underneath or next to the desk for easy access when necessary.
Try to keep things wireless or Bluetooth-accessible wherever possible for a more cable- and clutter-free surface.
But when that’s not a viable option, desks with built-in cable management and integrated support for technology help avoid messy wires.
Floating shelves and wall storage units are great for arranging essential items within reach without compromising coveted desk space.
Invest in pieces that are functional as well as thoughtfully designed.
3. Set Clear Parameters
It’s easy to get sucked into the “one more email” mindset, especially if you are working from home. But it’s essential working from home doesn’t feel like you live at work.
Set parameters for when the workday starts and stops and stick to them.
It’s easy enough to close an office door at the end of the day. But for workstations in more visible parts of the house, having multi-use furniture that allows you to tuck away laptops, keyboards, and paperwork at the end of the day signals to your brain that the workday is done.
It's also essential to set up clear communications with your team at work as well as with family, letting them know what your schedule is and when you are and aren’t available.
How can people working from home avoid meeting fatigue, and does this change from the employee to the executive level?
Zoom meetings have become the staple of today’s workday—whether you are working from home or back in the office.
Those working from home may feel more disconnected without a physical presence with other team members, and therefore they frequently engage in video calls throughout the day. But this penchant for zoom meetings has also resulted in meeting fatigue, which cuts into productivity during the day.
No matter the workload, taking regular breaks during the day is essential to keeping a clear head and a healthy attitude.
Studies have shown that getting out of the house periodically and working in a public space can provide benefits.
Rather than check social media, take your breaks to step away from your desk.
Go for a short walk outside, stretch, or spend time with others who might also be in the house.
How can business leaders ensure that productivity remains high while working from home and operating under a decentralized working model, and why might these strategies work best?
Before the pandemic, video conferencing technology like Zoom and Google Meet provided employers and employees with methods for staying in touch and on task. In addition, productivity apps such as Slack, Monday, and Trello provide a great centralized platform for keeping track of assignments and deadlines, especially with a remote workforce.
The pandemic pushed all of this technology to the forefront, and some adjustments could be made for companies that were newly creating a work-from-home or hybrid platform. Some companies started hiring executives with expertise in remote work to coach employees and advocate on their behalf.
And with many companies closing corporate offices for good, the decreased overhead of maintaining office spaces has allowed them to provide stipends for their employees to outfit their home offices and bring the advantages of full-scale office solutions into their homes.
This ensures that employees have all the tools they need to work effectively from home.
How can business leaders ensure that productivity remains high while working from home and conducting all interactions online?
Some companies may use tracking software or time-clock management tools that log every minute of an employee’s movements while on the clock. While that may be appropriate for some industries, I find that approach rather draconian.
If you have an employee working from home, there needs to be mutual trust, and you should know how that employee spends their time. If you don’t, communication issues that will not be solved by tracking someone’s keystrokes.
One-on-ones are important.
They are a regular part of my management routine.
We have virtual meetings regularly to keep the team ‘together.’ I never want anyone to feel isolated or forget their vital role in the company dynamic. This becomes a more significant risk when many are working remotely.
Balancing the benefit of working from home with the responsibility to the company team is a delicate juggling act. It requires active participation from both the employee and the manager. Again, these things do not happen by accident and those who expect them to play a risky game.
How can businesses adequately protect sensitive information while employees work from home, and why might these ways not work?
Technological advances have progressed rapidly over the last couple of years. Remote server access is the norm for most remote employees, and two-factor authentication is all but standard to ensure that company and personal information stays private and secure.
All business leaders should follow best practices and ensure that their employees are doing the same. Phishing attacks are rising as opportunists have seized this opportunity to capitalize on vulnerable companies with weak infrastructures.
Employees’ home computers need to be similarly secured and password protected.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Even though the pandemic accelerated the work-from-home movement, remote work was already on an upswing!
There’s something to be said about cutting out commutes and having the flexibility to get in a good workout on your lunch break.
Some companies had started offering the option of working from home at least part-time as a perk.
Proponents of this arrangement pointed to studies showing increased productivity and higher employee satisfaction.
Younger freelancers were significant drivers of this trend, with the gig economy attracting 40% of Millennials and 53% of Gen Z.
Even before the pandemic, it was estimated that 70% of the workforce would be working from home at least five days a month by 2025.