Many companies have had to shift to remote working as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst some are now returning to the office, many businesses are embracing the idea of flexible working and choosing to work from home, or offer a hybrid option to staff, on a more permanent basis. This leaves some business leaders asking themselves, how do I ensure my team is working from home effectively?

As an employer, you have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers. It’s important to communicate with your employees and workers about how they might improve their working from home arrangements, and you should support employees to adjust to home working.

When an employee is working from home, either permanently or temporarily, as an employer you should consider:

How will you keep in touch with them?

It’s important to keep in touch with those working from home and ensure regular contact to make sure they are healthy and safe. Programmes like Microsoft Teams are designed to be a virtual office, allowing remote workers to share important information and communicate via live chat and video calling features. Daily calls are a great way to catch up with your team, check workload is distributed evenly and ensure that everyone is moving towards your company goals. It’s also important for leaders to make time to have personal discussions with employees, and find out how they are coping.

What work activity will they be doing (and for how long)?

Shifting to homeworking may be a challenge for many managers and employees, particularly if they are used to working in a sociable environment. Employers and leaders should make sure that staff working from home understand what is expected of them.

This includes discussing and agreeing:

  • when employees will be online and available to work
  • how they will communicate and on what platforms
  • how their work-life balance will be managed, for example ensuring employees take  frequent breaks and switch off from work at the end of the day and on weekends
  • ensuring employees are taking holiday
  • rules around storing information and data protection
  • how performance will be managed and measured – taking into account people’s personal circumstances where necessary
  • who is the point of contact if staff have any problems or their circumstances change

It’s important to recognise that some employees may find it hard to motivate and organise themselves when working from home. If this happens, the manager and employee should talk about practical steps that might help.

Can it be done safely?

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 and ensuring employees have the right equipment to work safely. For some equipment (eg keyboards, mouse, riser) this could mean allowing workers to take this equipment home. For other larger items (eg ergonomic chairs, height-adjustable desks) encourage workers to try other ways of creating a comfortable working environment (eg supporting cushions).

What No Safety Ltd, an Inspire member, has created a complimentary Home Working Policy and Checklist to help you through these challenging times. The two documents work hand in hand and are provided in a Word format so you can make them your own. Download your copy here.

The Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors has published useful infographics (PDF) to help staff working at home.

Do you need to put control measures in place to protect them?

How will you keep in touch with lone workers, including those working from home, and ensure regular contact to make sure they are healthy and safe? Working from home can be a lonely and challenging time, particularly as staff may need to adjust to this new way of working. If contact is poor, workers may feel disconnected, isolated or abandoned. Being away from managers and colleagues could make it difficult to get proper support. This can affect stress levels and mental health. Managers should keep in regular contact with their employees, ensuring they do not feel isolated.

Read more about mental health at work in our article that sets out to explore the role of the leadership team and mental health in the workplace.  It sets out the truth about ‘health’ in the context of our lives today- in our Western World reality, and why it has become so critically important for us to be brave and overcome challenges that stop us from understanding mental health as an integral part of health in the workplace.  It also includes a practical 5-step approach for organisations to help make a difference.

Employers should also try to encourage workers to stay physically active outside of their working hours. This could include things like taking time for exercise and other hobbies.

Employee responsibilities

Employees have a responsibility to take reasonable care of their own health and safety. Anyone working from home should keep in regular contact with their manager. They should also tell their manager about any health and safety risks and any homeworking arrangements that need to change.

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