Stephen Roberts from office power, connectivity and ergonomics specialist, CMD, discusses the opportunities for electrical wholesalers as companies equip their teams to make working from home a permanent solution.
One of the knock-on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been to create the biggest working from home experiment the world has ever seen.
Companies that had previously avoided allowing their employees to work from home have discovered that their preconceptions on the matter were wide of the mark.
In fact, for many, enabling teams to work from home has led to increased productivity as commute time becomes work time, technology enables wider collaboration and improved flexibility in the working day delivers enhanced motivation and wellbeing.
With lockdown eased and teams returning to offices, it is easy to assume that the world will tip back into life as we knew it, and that homeworking will, once again, be the preserve of the privileged few.
The reality, however, is very different, which creates an opportunity for the electrical wholesale sector to generate sales from products targeted specifically at a dynamic homeworking market.
Returning to work – but not as they knew it
Firstly, employers are facing the challenge of reconfiguring their existing office spaces to accommodate their team while providing a safe, socially-distanced workplace.
For office environments that were operating on a high-density model before the pandemic, this is a circle that’s difficult to square.
Secondly, many office workers that had a taste of working from home during lockdown are now reluctant to return to the old routines of long commutes and tiresome presenteeism.
While some may miss the socialisation and face-to-face collaboration of the office environment, many will be keen to continue working from home some or all of the time, where they can avoid the interruptions of the office and work around other commitments.
Finally, employers have learned that, rather than providing an opportunity for employees to put their feet up and relax, working from home has been proven during lockdown to enhance productivity and facilitate the work/life balance that their teams have yearned for.
No longer shackled by the 9-to-5, professionals can adopt routines that work for them, which has distinct advantages for companies that operate across time zones, as well as boosting morale, motivation and productivity.
Long term challenge?
The challenge of transferring homeworking into viable workplace policy, rather than emergency response, is only just beginning. Moreover, it is potentially complex, as it involves reconfiguring the office in line with social distancing best requirements.
During the pandemic, homeworkers have largely fallen into one of two groups: those with a dedicated space at home to use as an office, and those who have had to carve out a workspace on a daily basis, often while factoring in partners, children or housemates sharing the same environment.
If employers are going to adopt a homeworking/partial homeworking model going forward, they have a duty of care to ensure that members of staff in either of these scenarios have a home workplace environment that supports their physical and mental health and wellbeing.
This means considering ergonomics, desktop facilities and connectivity. Packages tailored for dedicated home offices or makeshift workstations, which can be put in place on a plug and play basis, will provide the ideal opportunity for electrical wholesalers to respond to employers’ needs.
Enhancing the dedicated home office
Whether it is an office, a spare bedroom or a garden room, if a worker has a space where the desk is permanently set up for work, it can be interpreted as a permanent workspace.
However, unlike in the office, many of those working from home in this scenario will not have an appropriate task chair or monitor arm.
They may also not have access to conveniently located or sufficient power sockets and charge points, which can lead to a jumble of wires and extension leads that are potentially hazardous to both their health and safety and their company’s IT assets.
Along with the right chair, companies will be looking for electrical solutions to address this. Packages can include a fixed monitor arm to enable height-adjustable dual screen working and a network extender to improve the data signal for the improved connection required for online meetings and VPN access to the company server.
A unit such as the CMD Network Extender, which combines home office power, USB charging and data network extension in a single device, is ideal because it saves space and provides everything the homeworker needs in one location.
This simple plug and play solution enables electrical wholesalers to offer a product that could be transformative for companies with employees working from home.
Creating the flexible remote office
For those without a dedicated office, working from home during lockdown has been extra challenging.
They may have had to share their home’s only table with housemates, a partner or home schooling regimes, packing everything away at the end of each day to allow the space to be re-purposed for leisure time.
CMD has developed a package of equipment specifically designed for makeshift workstations, enabling this group to make longer term homeworking a viable choice by allowing them to use a more ergonomic, comfortable set up that packs away neatly when not in use.
For example, the lightweight CMD monitor arm for single or dual screens, enables the screen to be raised to the optimum height for the user, without being permanently attached to the desk or table. Designed to be quick and easy to install it allows the use of a second screen when working from a laptop.
One of the issues with working from a laptop is ergonomics, with poor screen position often resulting in poor posture which can result in discomfort while working along with aches and pains.
A simple solution, such as CMD’s portable laptop stand, can address this by allowing the user to set the screen height to suit their viewline.
The issues around power points and data connection also affect this group, and the same principles apply.
CMD’s Inca desktop power supply module is suitable for use on a kitchen table, with sockets in multiple directions along with USB points. Used in conjunction with a network extender, this provides a portable, flexible approach to working from anywhere.
Rising to the challenge
COVID-19 has made homeworking possible for both businesses and individuals. The change in working cultures means that electrical wholesalers can benefit from selling a whole category of electrical products designed specifically for homeworking.
CMD has taken a lead in understanding the challenges of different homeworking scenarios resulting in off-the-shelf solutions that electric wholesalers can offer as a complete package to optimise this opportunity.