The year 2021 continues to be a year of normality being anything other than the normal we once knew. Whilst the term ‘new normal’ is used a lot now that we’re living through a global pandemic, the phrase couldn’t be more true. Many of us are living, working and socialising differently now, and it’s hard to see a time when we will return to our true normal.
That said, perhaps some things needed to change anyway? The environment has certainly had less pressure on it in terms of carbon and pollution from transport and manufacturing industries.
So, what about the way in which we work? As of early August 2020, according to the Guardian, only a third of Britain’s office workers have returned to their desks, favouring the ability to work from home.
Perhaps over time, this will become the norm, with more and more of us eschewing public transport and traffic jams in favour of using our home office. The problem is, not all of us have a home office, with some people forced to work from kitchen tables or with their laptops balanced on the arm of the sofa.
As a consequence, there’s been an upwards trend in people having garden offices built. If your employees are thinking about getting one, or turning an existing summerhouse into a garden office, you still have a legal and a moral duty to make sure that you provide proper home workstation assessments.
The benefits of a garden office are multiple. The most obvious benefit is that your employees don’t have the stress of the daily commute. Studies also show that working remotely can increase productivity by 13%. Presumably, this is because there’s fewer distractions from colleagues and employees feel more trusted and therefore want to put the hours in.
Also, mindfully ‘walking’ to work across a freshly mown lawn with bare feet in a process called grounding has remarkable benefits for mental health. Grounding reconnects us to the earth and it’s said that it can help to reduce anxiety and depression as well as chronic pain and poor sleep. So starting the day in such a way can help to boost productivity.
But working from a garden office also has some extra things to consider. They tend to allow for less desk and chair space than a fit for purpose office. Therefore, the temptation is to use a small table, or even a garden table and a chair unsuited to eight or more hours’ use each day.
In this small space, there can also be problems with trailing leads or overloaded plug sockets, posing trip and fire hazards. Security can also be a concern, as some of these structures don’t have proper locking doors and windows, or aren’t connected to the security and alarm systems of the main house.
Glare focussed on screens and laptops can also pose problems, as can insufficient lighting, heating and ventilation. This can also mean that condensation and high humidity can build up, leading to an uncomfortable working environment.
So, to answer the question, is a garden office a good idea, absolutely it is! It just needs to come with the right working conditions, desk space and safety considerations. Call us to organise an HSE approved home DSE workstation assessment, either face to face or online, and let us help you get the most from your workforce.