Wondering whether providing equipment for remote workers is a good idea? This guide is for you.
We have seen much of the world tentatively revert to traditional workspaces. However, some organizations have decided to permanently adopt hybrid workplaces – a working model combining remote and office work. This will essentially keep much of their workforce operating remotely, occasionally.
Nevertheless, organizations with permanent remote or hybrid workforces must rethink workplace policy. They will need to provide the necessary equipment and training to ensure productivity and security. The following guide will explore important considerations when providing equipment for remote workers.
Table of Contents
- The importance of providing the right equipment to remote workers
- Setting up a home office for remote work
- Essential remote work equipment
- 5 best practices for providing equipment for remote workers
The importance of providing the right equipment to remote workers
A recent CraftJack survey found that 71% of American remote workers were using a makeshift workspace to operate from. This may harm performance as a lack of structure can increase uncertainty and impede productivity.
Additionally, we must also consider the health implications of working remotely without structure or a proper schedule. Many remote workers have admitted to reducing their movements by at least 50% after transferring over to remote work.
Of course, this affects workers’ health and long-term productivity which will negatively impact the business in the long term. Thus, organizations should not leave remote work tooling and equipment in the hands of employees. Companies should consider actively supplying and installing all necessary equipment for remote staff (if they can afford to).
All equipment and software should conform to company standards and policies. This will enable organizations to have tighter control of network security while ensuring that each employee’s requirements for productivity are met.
Additionally, it may be a good idea for employers to assess workers’ homes to ensure that they meet safety standards.
Setting up a home office for remote work
Both employers and employees should be ensuring ergonomics as a basic standard when selecting home office equipment and furniture. Home workstations should be designed to accommodate workers’ needs individually. Although it would be easier to provide equal equipment to all employees, it isn’t ideal.
How to ensure remote employees have adequate equipment
When selecting chairs, desks, mice, keyboards, and computers, it is important to take into consideration individual employees’ requirements. Employers are encouraged to perform surveys to understand workers’ home office needs. Of course, this will apply to permanent staff. This need not apply to freelancers and contractors working on a part-time or short-term basis.
Nonetheless, companies must plan and provide for employees’ physical needs and requirements, including disabilities (both invisible and visible). For instance, while some employees may prefer standing desks, it may not be possible for employees who are confined to wheelchairs.
Network equipment and software security is vital for telecommuting employees
Once employers have considered all employee health and physical factors, they can begin to map out the remote network and software infrastructure. This includes picking the right internet service provider and installing the necessary hardware such as modems, routers, etc.
Assessing and ensuring that workers’ internet speeds are sufficient is crucial – especially for workers who will be regularly participating in meetings via video conferencing software. Once organizations have decided how employees will connect to company digital resources, they must ascertain that all equipment and connections are secure.
This involves installing the right software and enacting the necessary network security policies. Network equipment and software security are vital for telecommuting employees.
In addition to providing essential hardware like laptops and monitors, organizations should also ensure the availability and secure setup of remote access devices, such as VPNs or remote desktop applications, to enable secure access to company resources from home offices. All business software used for working remotely must be tested for safety.
Essential remote work equipment
So far, we haven’t been specific on what equipment remote workers need for their home offices. This section will categorize each and offer a few suggestions.
Laptops and computers
Organizations can either supply employees with laptops or desktop computers. Laptops are more ideal because of their mobility. They give employees more flexibility. However, desktop computers are more scalable.
Additionally, employees must have access to ergonomic peripheral devices for their computers. This includes mice and keyboards. Again, people are different. Some peripherals may suit a set of workers better than others. Thus, it’s vital that businesses survey employees to ensure that they have the right components to mitigate any risk of injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Even if your employees use laptops, it’s still recommended that you supply them with at least one monitor.
Most experts agree that the best size for work monitors is between 24 and 30 inches. It should have a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and have a refresh rate of at least 60 Hz. However, if employees will be working with graphics or videos, monitors with higher refresh rates would be more suitable.
Furthermore, you should consider supplying employees with dual displays. A monitor usage study conducted by Jon Peddie found that using multiple displays increased overall productivity by 42%.
However, they may also result in neck strain and increased directed attention fatigue from task switching. Thus, you must weigh the pros and cons before choosing the correct monitor layout for remote work setups.
If workers will be interacting with customers through telephonic communications, they must have sufficient equipment to do so. It means ensuring that they’re set up to use VoIP or internet telephony services at home. But more importantly, they should have headsets that feature microphones with noise-canceling capabilities.
Most laptops come with built-in webcams. However, oftentimes, they may be insufficient for work requirements. They may be laggy or have low resolutions. If employees will video conference frequently, they’ll require efficient webcams. 720p webcams are adequate for web calls and video conferencing. They can potentially allow you to strike a good balance between performance and price. However, it’s recommended that you use 1080p to future-proof your setup and get the best performance.
High-speed internet access
Employees must have a reliable stable connection to the internet. It means ensuring that your employees have the right internet service provider and network equipment. Most experts believe that you need a minimum download speed of 1.8 Mbps.
However, we recommend an internet connection that can facilitate a download speed of 10Mbps and an upload speed of 1Mbps Additionally, your IT staff should ensure that your remote workers have Important network equipment like routers, modems, cabling, etc. Furthermore, they should ascertain that all this equipment is safe and secure.
Employers and employees should consider using a standing desk. The health benefits have been well-documented. However, there is also some evidence that suggests that standing desks may also impede performance and negatively impact productivity. Thus, employees should only be encouraged to use standing desks – not forced. Nevertheless, there are convertible standing desks with adjustable heights.
You can set them for standing or sitting. This makes it easier for you to cater to all employees through a single option.
Even if your employees elect to exclusively use a standing desk, you should consider supplying at least one chair. Just in case they get injured or need to rest. Nevertheless, organizations often underestimate the importance of supplying the right chairs for staff. Again, people come in all shapes and sizes.
It is nearly impossible to get one type of chair that everyone will find comfortable. There are so many different chair types available for employees. You can find kneeling chairs (stools), saddle chairs/seats, and classic ergonomic chairs. We can also replace traditional chairs with exercise balls. Again, if your organization or employees can afford it, you should consider hiring the services of an ergonomist. They will be able to ascertain what chairs and other work furniture will suit workers best.
As we shift to more paperless workflows, printers will mostly become obsolete. However, many organizations are still far from that reality. Thus, it may be a good idea to supply employees with printers. Inkjet printers offer cheaper upfront printing but laser printers are faster and produce better black and white printing.
If your employees work with documents, they will require scanners to scan and upload them. Scanners are still a mainstay of home offices. Purchasing and implementing all-in-one printing, scanning, and fax solutions would be the most money-savvy approach to equipping remote employees. In addition to saving money, they can work like photocopiers.
In most cases, telephones are virtually obsolete. If you have a headset, you can use VoIP to make and receive calls. However, it’s always good to have a backup. You may not be comfortable using internet bandwidth for voice calls when you can otherwise use wireless or traditional telephonic services for calls. A dedicated phone line may be an important addition for telecommuting employees.
This is another aspect of remote equipment and tools that most organizations take for granted. When businesses select what business software they use for daily tasks, they need to ensure that they are optimized for remote work. Your remote employees will communicate through video fairly frequently.
Cloud-based SaaS tools are preferable to desktop software as they don’t require remote workers to install software on their computers.
Again, if your employees work with hard copies of important documents, they’ll be required to dispose of these documents. While it is an essential piece of equipment for home offices, it’s good to have a paper shredder. This will allow remote employees to easily scrap, shred and recycle paper.
It’s important for employees to stay organized. The best way to avoid clutter is through storage units such as file cabinets. Again, this isn’t compulsory as not all employees will work with enough physical documents and files to warrant a file cabinet. However, you should consider providing a cabinet for workers who will.
Fire and water-resistant safes can be used to keep valuables, confidential physical work files, and hard drives with backed-up data. Vaults and safety boxes can be essential features for home offices, especially those belonging to executives.
Employees will need additional electrical connection points for all their devices. Electrical multi-outlets allow you to add more of these points.
Expensive home equipment can suffer damage from electric surges, over-voltage, or lightning. The best way to protect this equipment from these situations is through surge protection. In some instances, electrical multi-outlets have built-in surge protection.
Stationary is an essential part of any office setup – home or otherwise. Organizations that still work with hardcopy documents should have a collection of paper (at least A4) marked with the company’s letterheads. The letterhead should include the company’s information, logo, and other flourishes.
Envelopes aren’t just good for mailing cheques or sending letters. Employees can utilize them to organize or sort crucial documents for filing. Every office should have a collection of differently sized envelopes as part of the stationary list.
Post-its and sticky notes can be used for reminders and marking important tasks. They can also help you organize files, envelopes, and other documents.
Note-taking is an important aspect of most office workers’ duties. Workers will be required to take notes during meetings, even if they’re hosted virtually. Thus, every home office should be well-equipped with a notepad or two.
Employees will require pens to take notes or write letters. Without pens, notepads, letters, and Post-it notes would be ultimately useless. Employees should have pens of varying colors as it helps with information retention and labeling.
Folders are necessary for organizing and protecting documents. They come in a variety of colors and sizes allowing employees to color-code, sort, and label their documents.
Having company swag in home offices can promote company culture and boost morale. It’s important to remind employees that they’re part of the organization’s family. Company swag serves as this reminder. It can come in the form of custom company stationery, t-shirts, flags, fidget spinners, toys, etc.
Personalized mugs are another way for employees to add personal touches to their home offices. These mugs can have employee names on them or encouraging aphorisms.
Supply of coffee and cookies
Employees who thrive on caffeine and sugar should keep a steady supply of coffee and sweet snacks such as biscuits. It’s a great way to ensure that they’re productive and can encourage them to take short breaks.
5 best practices for providing equipment for remote workers
Organizations need to carefully plan how they’ll provide equipment for workers. There are a few things you need to consider while planning and providing these resources for employees.
The equipment you provide your workers with needs to meet certain standards and regulations. Of course, health and safety standards differ from region to region. Thus, department heads must familiarize themselves with the necessary literature on health and safety standards. They can then enforce these standards in home offices.
Organizations must train employees to comply with health and safety standards for remote work. However, they also need to be taught practices in cyber hygiene. Organizations must work to mitigate insider threats. This often involves comprehensive tooling and training (or re-training). As such, it is also recommended that organizations apply a Zero-Trust Security approach as proposed by the US National Security Agency.
Equipment care and maintenance
When it comes to providing equipment for remote workers, this is the most pressing concern. While employers can encourage employees to take responsibility for their equipment, they should not be solely responsible. Train the employees on the basics of equipment care, however, you should designate professional staff to regularly check and update equipment.
Loss and theft of equipment
Provide insurance for all work-related equipment. Encourage employees to install home security systems to protect home equipment. Furthermore, both workers and the organization should ensure that home offices have necessary protective measures against fires. Organizations must implement swift and efficient processes for repairing, recovering, or replacing damaged, lost, or stolen work-related equipment. This will allow workers to get back to work as quickly as possible.
On and offboarding
Implementing workstation assessments and training new staff is an important aspect of the onboarding process. Organizations will need to formulate procedures to make these processes as smooth as possible.
Nevertheless, many organizations take the offboarding process for granted. Workers won’t stick around forever and many may be under the impression that company equipment is theirs. Employee contracts should specify how company equipment should be returned. Organizations should keep an equipment inventory or list for each employee. Thus, it will help department heads keep track of what needs to be returned upon separation.
Many businesses were unprepared to handle the challenges and rigors that came along with the Covid-19 pandemic. They were forced to adapt as quickly as possible. Thus, they had to create rules and procedures as they went. It required a lot of testing and troubleshooting. Nonetheless, now that we have a better understanding of the implications and difficulties related to the pandemic, we can better prepare for the future (and present) of remote work.
For instance, organizations can now use team productivity benchmarking tools to try to gather insights into how successful their remote work strategies are. It all starts with ensuring that remote workers have been provided with the right equipment and tools.
Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed—among other intriguing things—to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.