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How to choose the right workstation for a hybrid workplace

While much of the emphasis on enabling work-from-home productivity during the Coronavirus pandemic has focused on connectivity challenges, productivity also depends on employees being able to pick up and continue with their work regardless of their physical location.

Over the past 16 months, the workplace has become less of a location and more of a “state of mind”, with workers needing to adapt to constantly changing work environments, often overnight as lockdown levels change or infection risks send workers into quarantine.

"There seems to be a trend in South Africa for companies to move towards hybrid workplace models where it is required to work from the office a few days a week and the rest of the week from home, and employees are expected to be available for meetings at a moment's notice, no matter where they are currently working from. That is why it is so important to make sure that the workstation they select has enough power and capacity not to slow them down,” says Leriza de Bruyn, Dell Technologies Client Product Manager at Axiz.

Having to work wherever you happen to be has placed increased pressure on employee productivity and adaptability. This is likely to continue as a hybrid workplace model in which employees spend at least part of the week working from home rapidly becoming the norm for most companies.

In order to move seamlessly between different locations, workers require a workstation that they can simply switch on and resume working as if they hadn’t left their office – or home – at all. This means their home and office set-up should resemble each other as closely as possible.

The easiest way to achieve a duplicate working environment is to have a light, mobile workstation or laptop that can be easily transported between work locations. This would eliminate the need to configure or update the workstation every time the employee switches on and logs in.

There are several important factors that should be kept in mind when choosing the optimal workstation for a hybrid work model.

Mobility needs to be optimal. This is one of the most important aspects to look at when investing in a machine that can carry you effortlessly between the work and office environments. The machine you select needs to be lightweight yet reliable and deliver the right combination of speed and power that aligns with the user’s requirements.

Power users – for example, those who work on complicated spreadsheets or big project plans, or who need to integrate their work on ERP systems – will require more powerful machines than those whose daily tasks revolve around e-mails and compiling Word documents. An underpowered machine for power-users could result in frustrated and potentially missed deadlines; while an overpowered device for those who don’t need it is a waste of budget.

Another factor to bear in mind is the fact that people tend to work longer hours when working from home. This means that careful attention needs to be paid to the screen quality and resolution.

The last thing you want is employees straining their eyes or developing headaches because of a less-than-optimal display on their mobile workstation.

It’s also recommended to invest in a powerful docking station, a productivity booster given that many of today’s thinner and lighter workstations contain only one USB port.

Being able to simply plug in a docking station that’s already connected to any required peripherals, such as additional monitors, can significantly boost productivity. However, it’s important to ensure the docking station is compatible with the workstation and that it delivers rapid data transfer rates and speedy workstation charging.

Adding top quality accessories such as a rechargeable mouse and keyboard is also as good idea – as is a quality, lightweight carry bag or sleeve to make transporting the workstation safer and easier.

Consideration should also be given to the workstation’s memory capacity. This should be boosted by SSD storage so that all project information can be at hand at all times. This would enable workers to resume their task exactly where they left off before closing their workstation down to travel to their other work location.

And then there’s price. While price is always an important consideration, it should not overshadow all others. While a bulk purchase of a single type of machine could result in a significant discount, this could mean that some employees end up with machines that are not fit for purpose and may have to be replaced sooner than anticipated.

Similarly, warranties and after-sales service are also important factors to bear in mind, but those also often come at a higher initial cost.

In today’s hybrid workplace scenario, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every organisation or even for every employee within that organisation. What is clear is that a thorough investigation is essential when selecting the technologies as this will have a direct impact on employees’ productivity and overall job satisfaction.

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