home office

How ‘macro’ is Macro?

Note from the Editor: We are pleased to have the first guest post from the site manager – France Jackson. I don’t expect it will be the last, so please give her a warm welcome as you post your comments.

We have done a series of articles centered around the workplace environment. There have been numerous pieces on standing desks, leaning workstations and a modern collaborative space. But with many companies shifting to mobile workers and telecommuting, the home has become the workplace for many Americans. According to Green Biz, companies can save up to $10,000 per employee a year by having workers telecommute. A recent article by Fast Company highlights the homes of some of the “top creatives from around the world”. The article mentions how creative offices spaces are designed to inspire, but inspiration starts at home.

Whether you’re a work-at-home freelancer or, like most of us, your work and home lives just sort of blend into one tech-enabled continuum, your home is your office.

This got me to thinking about macroergonomics and how much emphasis we as Human Factors professionals place on work place design and culture. Since the home has become an extension of the workplace, should we consider not only designing our home environments to be spaces conducive to creativity and productivity, but also to be ergonomically sound? Should we consider making sure the spaces in our homes where we do the most working, are comfortable to support long hours of work?

My Take
The Fast Co article mentioned how for most people “work and home lives blend into one tech-enabled continuum, your home is your office”. This definitely applies to me. I am actually working from home as I write this guest post. I think as we move into the future and the lines continue to blur between our work/home spaces, people should take more interest in the furniture and home décor they choose. I think companies should also take a modest interest as well. If you are asking me to telecommute, are you going to ensure that I have a proper work environment at home? If I need to purchase a desk, office supplies, a better printer or even beef up my home internet service, who foots the bill? Companies should take an interest in providing workers with conducive work environments that foster productivity, regardless of if they are working from the office or at home. I think it is time to expand macroergonomics to include the home.

Your Take
What do you think? If the home is an extension of the office, should macro principles be applied to this environment as it pertains to work related activities? Should companies who encourage or require workers to telecommute foot the bill for any changes in lifestyle that result, for example, higher electric bills? Or do you think the money employees save in other ways should make up for the expenses incurred. Green Biz list some of these benefits as; paying for less gas, avoiding parking, food, clothing as well as some other costs. They estimate that a worker can save anywhere from $2,000 – $6,800 a year. Comment below and let us know if you work from home and what you think.

France Jackson is a Human-Centered Computing Ph.D. student in the HXR Lab at the University of Florida. She has a BA and MS in Industrial Engineering from Clemson University.

Image Credit: Nick Keppol

2 thoughts on “How ‘macro’ is Macro?”

  1. I work from home when possible – and have for years as a UX contractor and consultant.

    The logistical and holistic advantages are often self-evident, but also deserve a deeper and more rigorous ergonomic and economic analysis. It’s worthwhile to propose innovative solutions and techniques; they will at least spark discussion and exploration.

    We should also consider the client/corporate approach to the concept of “remote work” (i.e. willing support) and outsourcing – which both assumes remote work and often carries the assumption of “commodity price shopping” for services.

  2. I think it should be a shared expense to a certain extent. Am I calling into conference calls from a mobile/home phone? What’s the percentage of those calls to the bill? Maybe discounts on the service or a prorated amount for the month.

    Is it a requirement that I work from home occasionally or a benefit offered in lieu of my cubicle? I think those considerations should determine the extent of a company’s ability to provide resources. I like to watch tv while I work sometimes. It provides enough distraction and ambient noise for creative thoughts to come through but I don’t think my company should pay my cable bill. Perhaps just the internet bill 😉

    I think the difficult situation here is determining what the rules are and who they apply to? For positions that require face to face collaboration it is hard to make accommodations whereas someone who works alone all day might well benefit from a home office. Great topic, thanks for sharing!

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