UR | Preventing or curing?
In the media you can read that after corona, working at home will remain a permanent part of our work process. According to some studies it would yield even more benefits, such as lower absenteeism due to illness, less commuting, which contributes to a better environment, and cost savings. It also gives you confidence, creates a safe working atmosphere and ensures motivated and more productive employees. So what’s the problem?
Large companies are already making plans on how to refurbish their offices. Hybrid forms are being considered in which working from home and work in the office are combined. The office will be a space for gathering (note: no open-plan office!) and it must be attractive for meeting your colleagues in teams, for brainstorming, presenting projects, or drinking a cup of coffee.
What would that mean for a large organization like TU/e? Our number of employees is still growing and so is the shortage of working spaces. Besides the shortage of space, the objectives for work are changing as well. Instead of being physically present at the university for a certain amount of time, achieving personal objectives is becoming more important for determining whether you are performing well.
If we were to refurbish the buildings according to these new insights, could we solve the problem of the lack of space? Should we only facilitate research and education activities on campus that cannot take place online? Or how about creating a brilliant meeting place for the whole TU/e community? With some major renovation projects coming up in the next years -of which Gemini, the department building of Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering is the largest- that is food for thought.
Keeping these thoughts in mind and with the second corona wave ahead, this is the perfect moment to take a critical look at your own home workplace. Does it meet the requirements you have at your place at TU/e? Does it comply with the health and safety (‘ARBO’) standards? Can you fully focus on your work at home? Can you plug out from your work on campus and plug in at home without any technical disturbances?
Until now, an office chair or computer equipment have been made available relatively easily. An indication is required when people need additional ergonomic means. This is a threshold that not everyone is willing to take. I also foresee that some of the employees have so far been hesitant and modest, partly because it was believed that the situation would be temporary. Now that this has been lasting longer than a few months, the number of people in need of physiotherapy or psychological care due to working-from-home related issues, is growing. These matters should be prevented rather than cured.
TU/e should now act preventively in facilitating materials and resources. Determine for each individual employee whether his or her work situation at home is in order in terms of ergonomics and IT facilities. In the framework document Work and Well-being @ TU/e in times of COVID-19 these points are also highlighted in the recommendations.
If we go for a hybrid form of working in the future, this investment in wellbeing will be utmost necessary, and it’s money well spent.