Some of us are in a very good position to work from home. We have a room we can call a study where we can set up a decent workstation and we have a good broadband service. All those Zoom participants who have a well-stocked bookshelf behind them seem to be very well set up for home working. But there are many people who have really struggled: working on the kitchen table, sharing tablets with children doing their school work, working in a space that is also for cooking, playing and entertainment. Most of our homes were never designed for home working. And how many are trying home working without good wi-fi? If some employees are in this position, what can an employer do?
The first requirement is to know the position of everybody. That requires the research part of the action research cycle. How have people actually coped with home working during lockdown? This may need sensitive questioning because people may fear the consequences of revealing they have been struggling. We have often undertaken this kind of research for clients because we can ensure independence and confidentiality.
But what actions can be taken?
Setting up home working workstations. There is a lot of ergonomic advice available to help people make the best of what they have available to them. Here is the advice from the Health and Safety Executive.
Setting up video conferencing. Similarly, there is a lot of advice available to make the best of videoconferencing. Getting the screen at eye height, for example, is important so that you appear to be making eye contact with others on the call.
Paying for equipment and services. People may have muddled through lockdown with the equipment they have at home but if home working is to be permanent, the employer may need to provide a support package, not just a computer but perhaps an office chair and a contribution towards broadband costs.
Local office rental space. If it is really difficult for people to work from home, there is also the option of renting local office space perhaps for a group of employees who live in a particular area.
The appropriate action will vary even within an organisation. A linked action-research strategy will be needed to reveal what is needed.