Logistics: defining work settings (co-working, home office)

There are many ways to create an effective work setting for remote workers, and these are some of the key advantages.

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A major part of the on-boarding kit for new employees is making sure that they have the right setting to be productive. In an office, that means their own space. In remote work, it means the same thing, except that many of the decisions are up to the employee.

A successful remote on-boarding plan for new employees is more about teaching than providing.

Many of the considerations are the same regardless of where the employee works. As a remote-first company, there are basics which have to be covered to get the job done. In addition, remote employee on-boarding is like every other aspect of remote work. It is necessary to be explicit and thorough from the start.

However, there are still choices that can be made. This starts with where the work is performed.

Digital nomadism, or work on the go

The most common view of remote work is that it takes the form of digital nomadism. This has captured the imagination of many writers because it is so romantic. Why not travel the world and make your living on a beach, sipping a cool drink?

The answer to this is simple: once it becomes all about travel, it’s not about work. Plus, the romance eventually wears off.

A successful remote work team requires constant communications, and a reliable internet connection is key for that! A digital nomad has to secure this for every location they move to, and it may not be easy. In addition, remote employee on-boarding is much more than providing a laptop, as we will discuss later.

This is the least common setting for remote work, in use by 10% of all remote workers according to a survey. The term “digital nomad” is also used to describe all remote workers, which is not the case.

Despite the allure and popularity of working on the go, we simply do not recommend it. There are other options out there.

Co-working spaces

A remote employee may prefer to work out of a co-working space such as WeWork or Regus for the many amenities they provide. These include:

  • Workspace away from home
  • Appropriate desk, chairs, and other ergonomically correct equipment.
  • Fast and reliable internet connection.
  • Opportunities to network.
  • Daily interactions/social opportunities with other people.

As a company, you may want to suggest a co-working space for your employees. You can elect to pay the cost or subsidize it in part as you see fit. This type of setup is favored by 22% of all remote workers, especially those of the millennial generation.

Working from home

The final choice is to work from home, an arrangement favored by 68% of all remote employees. The workspace is defined entirely by the worker, ideally as part of the remote employee on-boarding process along with their employer.

This provides the greatest flexibility, but with that comes a greater need to carefully and explicitly define and meet the requirements. Specific tools and equipment will have to be provided, a topic so vast that it is covered in another article. In general, the requirements for a successful at home work experience are:

  • Fast internet connection, often above the standard in-home service.
  • Ergonomic chairs, desks, and other equipment.
  • A dedicated space away from distractions.

The reduced cost and convenience are important reasons why working from home is so heavily favored- not just by workers in remote-first companies, but by as much as 70% of all office workers around the world at least once per week.

The major drawbacks of working from home come from a lack of attention to the requirements for a co-working space. For example, a 2018 survey showed that only 31% of remote workers perform most of their work in a dedicated at-home workspace. While that was the most popular, nearly as many at 27% worked from their living room and 16% worked from their bedroom.

Dedicated work spaces at home are still quite rare. The development of such a space and outfitting it with the correct equipment and tools are an essential part of the remote worker on-boarding process and should not be left out. 

Which setting is best?

All these settings have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on the specific needs of the employee and their job requirements. Just as desk space is provided for new employees at any company, the remote employee on-boarding process must consider the setting as well.

The difference is based on choice

What works best? The advantages and disadvantages of co-working spaces and home offices have to be weighed for each situation. It is also possible for employees to test both options over a trial period to see what they prefer.

The rule of thumb is, if an employee needs to get away from a distracting home environment, or they cannot secure a stable internet connection, they should consider working from a co-working space. An employee who needs a flexible schedule or cannot find a co-working space that is suitably close should work from home.

Clear communication

Once the work environment has been chosen, employers should follow up every so often with an employee's wellbeing. Key questions that should be discussed include:

  • Are you able to work without distractions?
  • Are you lonely or frequently bored?
  • Are you experiencing any discomfort in your hands, back, legs, etc. that could call for further inspection?
  • Are you finding it hard to stay on top of your work and communications with the team because of your environment set-up?

The plan that was developed can then be revised as necessary to fix any problems that arise.

Making it work

In all cases, the setting for remote work is ultimately not that different from an office space. The main difference is that it takes extra attention to detail and open re-evaluation as part of the arrangement between the remote worker and employer.