This blog is the second in our series exploring the topic of working from home during the current period of government restrictions. Our first blog explored the topics of managing employee productivity, working hours and engagement, and is available here. This second blog will explore some practical considerations for staff working from home, including health and safety matters.
Health and Safety
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have provided advice for employers on managing the wellbeing of employees working from home, which is available here.
The guidance highlights that lone workers are exposed to greater risks without supervision, and specifies that when someone is working from home, permanently or temporarily, as an employer you should consider:
- How will you keep in touch with them?
- What work activity will they be doing (and for how long)?
- Can it be done safely?
- Do you need to put control measures in place to protect them?
As part of this, the physical space that employees are working in within their home is likely to be a point for consideration. Does their display screen equipment (DSE) set up present any risks? The HSE state:
“there is no increased risk from DSE work for those working at home temporarily. So, in that situation employers do not need to do home workstation assessments.”
However, if the current government restrictions are extended beyond the initial three-week period, working from home will become longer-term. As such, undertaking DSE risk assessments may be an appropriate measure to ensure employee wellbeing. The HSE provide a template that employers can use here.
If an assessment identifies a need for equipment, employers should try to meet those needs where possible (e.g. by allowing employees to take small items of equipment such as a keyboard home), but given the practical constraints caused by the current situation, the HSE state:
“For other larger items (e.g. ergonomic chairs, height-adjustable desks) encourage workers to try other ways of creating a comfortable working environment (e.g. supporting cushions).”
Under normal circumstances, setting up an employee to work from home will take planning and potentially incur cost, for example, buying new technology. However, current rapidly changing circumstances mean that many people will already be working from home without this having been a possibility. As such, many employees are likely to be working on personal devices such as phones and laptops.
Employers may therefore find a short-term risk assessment approach beneficial. This could identify a need for measures such as setting out clear protocols for regularly uploading work to shared drives rather than storing on personal devices and purchasing anti-virus or similar software for employees to use on their personal devices. Now is also a good time to remind employees of your organisation’s data protection policy and their responsibilities under this.
You may need to ensure that more than one member of staff is upskilled to be able to undertake key functions such as backups (and that they have the relevant passwords if appropriate) in case the person who usually does it becomes unwell.
Check that you have up-to-date contact details for all employees and their next of kin. Ideally try to hold more than one personal method of contact as mobile networks are currently under pressure, and staff may experience difficulties logging on to their work email if they do not usually do this from home.
You should also check that your employers’ liability insurance covers employees working from home.