The Coming Revolution in Home-Based Work

"It would surprise me if OSHA didn't involve itself in home-based work," says John Michael, vice president and general manager of Business Interiors by Staples.

I believe we've entered a new era of big, successful consumer companies competing in the safety space. Two examples: Staples and AmazonSupply. Tell me, did you expect to see the former selling nitrile gloves and welding goggles and "Earth's Biggest Bookstore" selling LOTO products?

John Michael, vice president and general manager of Business Interiors by Staples, recently told me he expects to see big changes quite soon in how many American workplaces operate. We were discussing the changing furniture needs of health care organizations, sustainability, and the growing mobile workforce. What he foresees will have major implications for safety and health managers.

For health care entities, the focus has expanded beyond functionality to how the patient care environment can positively affect patient outcomes and at the same time bring patients in, in the same way retail environments are designed to entice customers, Michael said.

As for mobile workers, Michael said roughly 20 million to 23 million Americans currently work from home. Citing Forrester Research Inc.'s forecast that more than 60 million of us will be working from our homes by 2016, Michael said this will change how companies use commercial space. "It's going to have a dramatic impact on how employers view the home-based work environment," he said. "It would surprise me if OSHA didn't involve itself in home-based work."

Employers are "kind of all over the map right now" in how they furnish home-based work spaces, he said. Some provide a set amount of money, perhaps $800, and allow the employee to set up the home work environment as he or she wishes. Others offer two standard setups and let the employee choose between them.

People who work at home say they feel less stress, are more loyal to their companies, and eat healthier than when they commuted to work, according to a 2011 Staples Advantage survey.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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