Working from Home
If you are an employer, you have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers in routine on site work. As an employer you should carry out a risk assessment for staff to identify any hazards they may have carrying out their role from home.
When someone is working from home, permanently or temporarily, as an employer you should consider:
- How will you keep in touch with them?
- Are they lone working?
- What work activity will they be doing (and for how long)?
- Can it be done safely?
- Do you need to put different or extra control measures in place to protect them?
Lone working without supervision
There will always be greater risks for lone workers with no direct supervision or anyone to help them if things go wrong. This is more prevalent at the moment with millions of employees working from home, but this also applies to those are aren’t able to perform their activities from home.
We need to ensure we keep in touch with lone workers, including those working from home, and ensure regular contact to make sure they are healthy and safe.
Working with display screen equipment
For those people who are working at home on a long-term basis, the risks associated with using display screen equipment (DSE) must be controlled. This includes them doing workstation assessments at home.
There is no increased risk from DSE work for those working at home temporarily. So, in that situation employers do not need to ask them to carry out home workstation assessments.
However, employers should provide workers with advice on completing their own basic assessment at home. Having a workstation set up correctly is important to reduce the potential for Muscular Skeletal Disorders (MSD’s). In these times Working from home is required, a DSE assessment should be carried out to ensure employees are have the correct working from home desk set up at home where possible, including providing workers with appropriate equipment and advice on control measures.
There are some simple steps people can take to reduce the risks from display screen work:
- breaking up long spells of DSE work with rest breaks (at least 5 minutes every hour) or changes in activity
- avoiding awkward, static postures by regularly changing position
- getting up and moving or doing stretching exercises
- avoiding eye fatigue by changing focus or blinking from time to time
- DSE Assessments and Healthy Working - HSL
- Employers should have regular discussions with workers to assess whether additional steps are needed, for example where they report:
- aches, pains or discomfort related to their temporary DSE arrangements
- adverse effects of working in isolation, on remote IT systems
- working longer hours without adequate rest and recovery breaks
Specialised DSE equipment needs
Employers should try to meet any specialist needs where possible. For some equipment such as keyboards, mouse & risers this could mean allowing your workers to take this equipment home or providing it where possible.
Other larger items such as, ergonomic chairs & height-adjustable desks you should encourage workers to try other ways of creating a comfortable working environment using support cushions for example.
Stress and mental health
Home working can cause work-related stress and affect people’s mental health.
It is also important to have an emergency point of contact and to share this so people know how to get help if they need it.
Being away from managers and colleagues could make it difficult to get proper support.
Keeping in touch with your employees is an important part of checking on their wellbeing. Many people around the United Kingdom are feeling isolated, despite having methods of communication such as phones, laptops and tablet computers. If contact is poor, workers may feel disconnected, isolated or abandoned. This can affect stress levels and mental health.
Mental health first aiders are incredibly important at the moment to recognise signs and symptoms of mental illness and guide colleagues to support when required.
Employee assistance programs are very beneficial to employees by offering extra support if required during these hard times. Offering an EAP, employers can help employees to counter any problems they may be experiencing. When you can help to support your employees through poor physical or mental health or issues with emotional wellbeing – you get a happier, healthier workforce who feel valued and supported by their employer.
Put procedures in place so you can keep in direct contact with home workers so you can recognise signs of stress as early as possible.