Homeworkers happier but more at risk from poor ergonomics

Flexible workingAmidst all the controversy over flexible working raised by the infamous Yahoo homeworking ban comes US research revealing homeworking policies lead to happier employers and employees. 93 percent of employees surveyed by Staples Advantage agree that telecommuting programs are mutually beneficial, and more than half 53 percent of business decision makers said telecommuting leads to more productive employees. However, the survey also reveals that 48 per cent of telecommuters use furniture or technology that is not ergonomically adjusted for them, which can lead to discomfort, loss of productivity or injury.

By 2016, the number of regular telecommuters in the U.S. is expected to reach 4.9 million, representing a 69 per cent increase from the current level, according to a June 2011 report, “The State of Telework in the U.S.” from TeleworkResearchNetwork.com. The Staples report confirms that 75 percent of business decision makers notice happier employees when running homeworking programmes, with 37 per cent reporting less absenteeism and 48 per cent of remote workers saying they are less stressed.

However, the office supplier advises that as telecommuting continues to rise, businesses should evaluate their technology and furniture offerings.

“Telecommuting can help achieve balance between workplace demands and life obligations, but being successful isn’t as simple as just sending employees home with their laptops,” said Tom Heisroth, senior vice president for Staples Advantage.

Specific areas of concern are that 59 per cent of telecommuters do not use their company’s data backup system; 33 per cent of employees say dealing with IT issues is one of the most difficult aspects of working from home and 17 per cent of business decision makers offer furniture, but only 50 per cent of those respondents offer furniture installation services that can save workers time and improve productivity.

Staples recommends the following steps for productive telecommuting programs:

  • Connectivity  – Ensure easy access to email, document sharing, instant messaging and video conferencing.
  • Network Access – Provide remote VPN capabilities so telecommuters can easily access the network.
  • Data Backup and Security – Employees need to be educated about data backup and security best practices to avoid risky practices such as emailing sensitive information.
  • Ergonomics – Incorporate ergonomic furniture options into telecommuting offerings, 59 per cent of survey respondents would accept company-purchased, ergonomic furniture, which would create a healthier work environment.
  • Storage – Desk and drawer organizers, file cabinets and additional storage options help telecommuters minimize clutter and maximize space, making home office environments more productive.
  • Sustainability – Environmentally preferable furniture options not only help to support      individual employee and company green initiatives, but also help promote healthier work and living spaces.