Coronavirus: 10 Ways to Keep Employees Comfortable While Working From Home

The rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic has prompted governments and businesses to take extraordinary steps to help slow the spread of the virus and keep people safe. Starting this week, businesses across the US have mandated that their employees work for home for an extended period of time. And millions of workers who may not yet have been directed to do so are similarly telecommuting out of necessity, in order to care for their children amid widespread school closures or ill family members.

Many of these employees, however, have never worked from home — and even if they have, they haven’t done so for extended periods of time, nor have they had to balance work requirements with potential family duties. But a few small changes to employees’ home work environments can help create more comfortable, safe, and productive telecommuting experiences.

Whether working from home on a shift basis or full-time during the coronavirus pandemic, employers should share with their employees these ten best practices:

  1. Use a sturdy chair that can be adjusted. Refrain from sitting on very soft couches and chairs as they do not support the body evenly during extended sitting.
  2. Adjust seating height, so your forearms are parallel to the floor when typing.
  3. Place a small pillow behind your lower back while sitting to maintain the natural curve of your spine.
  4. Use an external mouse and place objects — such as your phone, mouse, and printed materials — close to your body to minimize reaching.
  5. Place your feet entirely on the floor.
  6. Alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day (about every hour) to reduce excessive stress on the lower back and legs while sitting.
  7. Take short micro-breaks (approximately two minutes in length) every hour to stretch and move your body.
  8. Be careful not to overload electrical outlets to avoid fire risk.
  9. Be aware of your extension/power cords to minimize tripping hazards.
  10. Keep your laptop and equipment in a secure place after hours that can be protected from damage or theft.

In addition to sharing these best practices, employers should consider creating video tutorials and providing access to helplines to assist with home work environment setup and to professionally address any physical discomfort issues.

Managers should also regularly check-in on their employees’ well-being, either during team meetings or on an individual basis. Now, more than ever, employees need your support and guidance.

With or without a pandemic, working from home is becoming more common, and for many employers and employees, it comes as a significant change. While telecommuting will likely be the norm for the next several weeks, employers should be patient with themselves and their employees as they navigate this new world of work.

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Jeffrey Smagacz

Senior Vice President, Global Ergonomist, Marsh