As remote working becomes the new norm, employers need to ensure their employees remain productive. Unfortunately the long-term effects from all staff working from home when it comes to employee physical and mental health, happiness, and productivity are not yet known. The fact is the majority of Canadians working from home are currently doing so in temporary home ‘offices’ that include dining rooms, kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms. Although these locations for home ‘offices’ are enough to work remotely for a short period of time, working from a dining room table and chair over the course of several months will have a number of negative impacts for both the employer and employee.

Over the course of several weeks working from makeshift home offices, your employee’s productivity will drop. Working in an environment filled with distractions, as well as ergonomic issues (such as sitting daily on a dining room or kitchen chair for 8 hours), will cause employees to become distracted as well as suffer from fatigue. Employees may also begin to suffer from aches and pains, as well as needing to take extended breaks to stretch.

Employers can help employees stay productive when working from home by taking the following measures:

  • Encourage Regular Stretching
    • There are many free Chrome extensions and other mobile apps that will set reminders to stretch every few hours. Consider allowing your team to either download or purchase these apps to use, as regular stretching can go a long way to combat less ergonomic environments. This will help to keep your staff focused in the long run, and more productive.
  • Support Flexible Work Hours
    • Working from home comes with a whole new set of challenges, especially when children are also in the home. Supporting flexible work hours can be difficult, however there are a number of great tools available to help with project management and time tracking. Your staff may have a blitz of productivity after their children go to bed; try to support them.
  • Ensure Employees Have Ergonomic Home Offices
    • If your company can, supply (or allow for an allowance for) ergonomic home office supplies, such as furniture, chairs, stand up desks, or smaller ergonomic solutions such as mouse pads and wrist pads. Ensuring your employees are physically comfortable will lead to greater productivity.
  • Keep Communication Clear
    • Your staff are likely worried during this uncertain time. Check-in with them every day, either in a group setting or 1-on-1, and make sure they understand as much as possible what is happening and why.

Companies that understand these factors have already put measures in place to ensure that their staff have productive and appropriate work-spaces at their homes. For example, Shopify Inc. out of Ottawa has given all staff $1,000 in order to furnish their home offices. Shopify understands that individual employee productivity at home is worth far more than $1,000 per employee in the long-term.

For example, using an over simplified method to look at the benefits, if an average employee is costing a company $75,000 a year, or $1,442.31 per week, and during normal operations employees are 90% efficient with their time, the company sees about $9,300 a year in productivity loss (or $178.85 per week).

If an employee then works from home and doesn’t have a proper work from home setup, which then decreases their overall productivity to 70% for the time off work, which turns out to be 10 weeks, the lost productivity would be $2,884.62 (or $28.462 per week) over that same period working from the office as normal.

If giving employees $1,000 to help with costs of a home office helps to boost overall productivity to 80% over the same 10 week period, the total lost productivity would be $1,442.31, half that of the total loss at 70%. This would mean that giving the employees $1,000 for their home offices would help to save the company from lost productivity and money.

This over simplified calculation illustrates what the potential return on investment is for an organization looking to help their employees work from home in the most efficient way possible. As an employer, it’s critical that your team stays as productive and mentally connected to the organization as possible during working hours.