Working from a green home
Working from home is now the new normal. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many offices have been allowing their employees to work from home.
There is, however, one big difference. Back then, employees could still report within the week to attend meetings and collaborate with people in their offices.
All that has changed dramatically with the enhanced community quarantine due to the pandemic. No face-to-face meetings are being done or allowed today. This means no reporting or attending meetings in their offices. Working at home today means staying in your home seven days a week. And there are no physical meetings allowed anywhere. This is the new twist in today’s concept of working from home—it really means doing everything at home.
This is the biggest challenge for most employees and employers today—how to manage people and resources while being physically separated for an indefinite period.
There are so many people now expounding the virtues of working from home. They cite many valid reasons and advantages why it makes sense to work at home.
People cite staying focused on their work as a major advantage, in contrast to all the distractions they get in the office.
For many employees, especially Filipinos who are stressed by the horrendous traffic in our cities, they cite the advantage of avoiding commuting.
Better health for many people, another advantage, means having more time to spend with their families and creating a work-life balance that is exceedingly difficult to attain by working in offices.
Working from home has the added advantage of being environmentally friendly by not contributing to the carbon footprint.
Incidentally, according to Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, the lockdown imposed in countries around the world due to COVID-19 has allowed “the earth to heal from environmental degradation.”
Air pollution, due mainly to mass transport energy emissions, has decreased significantly. There is lesser trash in public places because people are in strict home quarantine.
Another important benefit of working from home, according to employees, is that they save money and time. No gasoline and parking expenses. Fewer clothes are needed, and people can dress more comfortably.Disadvantages
There are of course, some disadvantages to working from home. With no set office, employees feel they are always on the job. And with the presence of computers, smart phones and the internet—the overly critical devices needed to work from home—it is extremely hard for employees to disconnect from work. This could lead to degrading health and increased stress.
Working from home means you are alone most of the time which can lead to a feeling of isolation and detachment from social interactions.
It may lead to what is known as “cabin fever” which refers to the claustrophobic irritability or restlessness experienced when a person is stuck in confined quarters for an extended period of time.
Working from a “green” home
Today more than ever, staying in a comfortable and environmentally friendly home is critically important, something that many people have been taking for granted.
When talking of working from home, people inadequately consider only the electronic devices that help them communicate with the outside world. They fail to consider whether their home is ideal for long term stay particularly with the indefinite home quarantine being imposed by the government.
It is important to create an inspiring workplace that helps to make one want to work. One should be able to move around, take breaks and possibly “change” the scenery. This can be done even during a home quarantine.
Changing the scenery means shifting your eyes from your desk or laptop screen by looking outdoors or perhaps a green space within your home.
Since it is unhealthy to be continuously stuck before our PC or laptop, it is smart to take 5-minute breaks to look at some live green plants. Doing this has a positive effect on our eyes and may help relax the brain.
Green design concept
For many homes in the city, incorporating a green space within a compact area can be quite challenging but can still be done. A good example is the back of townhouses which is normally underutilized.
This is the case with the townhouse of Tony and Marissa, a nice and friendly couple. I had previously designed their country home many years ago.
I suggested converting the back of their townhouse into a green wall enclosed in wrought iron grills with insect screen. The result was a transformation that not only created a focal point for the living-dining room but also a cool, refreshing area for the family’s all-year round enjoyment.
Tony’s green wall has mainly philodendrons mixed with anthuriums, ferns and low light bromeliads on the middle to the lower portion of the wall.
While it may not be possible for many homes to have a green wall, it pays to consider having some greens inside their homes not only for their positive effect on their eyes but also to improve the air quality.
Pandemic or not, working from a green home has many benefits for the occupants.
The author is the Principal Architect of A.P de Jesus & Associates-Green Architecture, and vice chairman of the Philippine Green Building Initiative. For comments or inquiries, email [email protected]
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