Home Office

Script image posted November 24, 2014; text on page last updated December 07, 2014


Workers can spend so much time at the office their homes remain unoccupied for much of the day.  In that case rental / mortgage expenses are better off saved towards a future purchase or invested elsewhere.  Likewise, office buildings are usually unused after-hours and therefore go to waste during this time.  Adverse effects occur from daily commuting, including the risk of automobile accidents, exposure to pollution, and monetary costs.  Given these factors, more employees should be enabled to sleep in their office / place of work.  If living standards therein are unsatisfactory, i.e., harmful to one’s health, then doubt is raised if an individual should be in the place for any amount of time at all.

Modern working environments contain additional health hazards beyond standard housing, outlined in our respective presentation (nonprofitwebinar.org/housing); such concerns include:
– Ink aerosols from printers and copiers, which spread across upwards of a 10-meter radius, absorbed through the skin and membranes, containing chemicals which cause respiratory and other physical problems.  All such equipment, along with lamination / melted plastic (i.e., “3d printing”), should be kept isolated, in a separate room, with ventilation directing impacted air outside to an uninhabited area.  On a side note this is unfortunately a common source of exposure in public schools, where copy-room and lamination attendants suffer from chronic illness after working in such rooms; also, students’ desks are often well within range of exposure from laser printers, which is unacceptable.
– Electric radiation caused by wireless networks & mobile devices, known as “Electromagnetic Fields” or EMF, dangers from which are becoming more widely acknowledged, notably from power lines, wireless networks, cell towers, and “smart meters.”  Until further studies take place, workers should use a direct Ethernet connection whenever possible and the office administration consider having “wireless free” zones for those who don’t require “wi-fi” for any reason, or at least install the most powerful shielding and barriers available.  Unfortunately this is now a concern in most residential areas, especially apartments, where dozens of wireless networks are commonly within range of one unit, to which developing children are to be considered more at risk / susceptible.
– Fluorescent bulbs also emit electric radiation in use and carry the risk of mercury contamination when the bulb breaks.  Strict protocol must be followed to prevent mercury from spreading via HVAC, if one of these or a “plasma” / LCD screen breaks in the building; there are also red flags concerning “computer dust,” which contains traces of harmful metals.  Fluorescent bulbs should be replaced with the LED equivalent, if at all possible.
– Petroleum fumes from automobiles in the parking lot and nearby roads, with a cumulative effect of numerous vehicles, it has been determined air quality is even worse inside the building than outside.  Nearby roads and parking lots need to leave sufficient space away from the building, with natural remediation areas if possible.
– Lab work, involving chemical and biological agents, needs to be isolated in a separate building, with a remediation barrier outside.  Any worker involved in producing / utilizing said materials should receive the maximum appropriate protective equipment.  Any such labs and / or manufacturing must be sectioned off from residential facilities and IT / clerical staff, with an appropriate distance between the buildings.  Calculations are requested to determine the distances necessary for different materials, taking into account various substances and quantities.
– Custodial chemicals, often stronger than household cleaners; steam-based sanitization should be used instead whenever possible, along with UV / “flash” disinfectant, otherwise adequate air circulation and ventilation built in.  Custodians frequently work in close-quarters with chemical fumes, and it is regretful they are not always provided with respirators / hazard suits for their jobs.
– Unauthorized activity, such as smoking in the building, tenants who set up “meth labs;” policies must stipulate workers are not to perform any activity which will contaminate the building.  Detectors should be installed which alert their presence or upon being powered down without notice.

Amenities needed to facilitate the home office:
– Individual units / rooms with locks, electricity, lighting, climate control, cable internet access
– Sleeping accommodations in the rooms, potentially including a foldout bed, cot, recliner, air mattress, “business hammocks”
– Storage to hold hygiene products; closet space for clothing, shoes, ironing board
– Kitchen area, access to an oven, stove / range / hot plate, toaster, food “3d printer,” faculty fridge, pantry, dishwasher
– Laundry machines / washer & dryer, wash basin
– Bathroom and showering facilities, including privacy walls between stalls, bug / camera detectors available
– Trash / recycling disposal and pickup
– Tornado shelter / adverse weather protection
– Medical room / first aid station

Optional offerings to be included as needed / if possible:
– Lobby / reception / visitors’ center, conference rooms
– Cafeteria / restaurant, convenience store / grocer, vending machines
– Transportation / trolley service back to town / central locations
– Gym / fitness center; recreation rooms including video screens, table games
– Outdoor recreation – athletic fields / courts, grills / smoking section, trails / wilderness zones
– Camping / sleeping outside, weather permitting, secured / sectioned off with breach detection
– Daycare / child supervision, playground / activity areas
– Access control & audit trails for secure / high clearance sections, vault for valuables / sensitive documents
– Perimeter guard tower / watch post, surveillance, motion detectors, alarms
– Self contained water purification, backup power, landline phone / shortwave radio communication
– Gardening / greenhouse / aquaponics, long term volume food storage
– Religious quarters, church, temple, mosque
– Pet accommodations, fenced in outdoor section with shelter / “dog house”
– Docks / boathouse for those located along waterlines; flood protection, in that case
– Data backup warehouse, built in protection from electromagnetic discharge (i.e., faraday cage)
– Panic room, underground escape access, helicopter landing pad

References (Last Updated February 28, 2023):

Occupational Safety and Health Administration – OSHA
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety – CCOHS
Workplace Safety and Health Topics – CDC
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences – Occupational Health – NIH
Workplace Health – NHS Choices
Health & Safety Authority – Workplace Health – HSA
Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment – OEHHA
Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response Office – DOH
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration – PHMSA
Indoor Air Quality – OSHA
The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality – CPSC
Indoor Air Pollutants and Toxic Materials- CDC
Outdoor, Indoor, and Personal Exposure to VOCs in Children – NIH
Hazardous Flame Retardants Ubiquitous in Preschools – SF Gate
Creating Healthy Indoor Environments in Schools – EPA
Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes – HUD
Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards – NIOSH
EMF (Electric and Magnetic Fields) – CDC
Light Pollution Sources – NPS
Ultraviolet Radiation Emissions from Compact Fluorescent Lights – ARPANSA
Office Lightbulbs May Increase Skin Cancer Risk – Prevention
Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Recycling (WEEE) – HSE
Warning: Laser Printers Could Be a Health Hazard – PC World
Office Printers Emit Hazardous Particles – CBC
Nanoparticles Emitted from 3D Printers Could Pose a Risk – IEEE
3D Printers Shown to Emit Potentially Harmful Nanosized Particles – Phys
What Are the Dangers of Commercial Laminating Machines & Poor Ventilation? eHow
Meth Lab in Store Bathroom? Not the Oddest Place One Found – IndyStar
Effect of Motor Vehicle Emissions on Respiratory Health in an Urban Area – NIH
As Beijing Air Pollution Worsens, Some American Expats Clear Out – LA Times
Urbanization, Trace Metal Pollution, and Malaria Prevalence in the House Sparrow – NIH
Monitoring Urban Heavy Metal Pollution Using the House Sparrow – RSC
Distribution of Transportation Fatalities by Mode – DOT
Transportation: Motor Vehicle Accidents and Fatalities – Census
Drowsy Driving – NHTSA
Distracted Driving – NHTSA
Tips For Staying Safe In A Parking Deck – Georgia
Renting a Business Property: Tenant Responsibilities – GOV.UK
Harvard Study Finds: The Rent Is Too Damn High – Businessweek
Google Employees who Work, Eat, and Sleep at the California Campus – Independent
Is Your Child Care Center Secure? – DCF
Confronting Y2K – DOD
Emergency Preparedness and Response – OSHA
Business Continuity Plan – Ready
A Guide to Business Continuity Planning – Public Safety Canada GC
Emergency and Evacuation Planning Guide for Employers – CA
Small Business Fire Safety – NSW.AU
Earthquake Map – USGS
Storm Prediction Center – NOAA
Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) – NFIP
Fact Sheet: Privacy in the Workplace – GC
Lucy Kellaway’s History of Office Life – BBC
See Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks Deal with the Hassles of a Modern Office – People
Office Space Turns 20: Where Is the Cast Now? – E! Online
The Office – BBC