To reduce the spread of COVID-19, the majority in business are following the guidance from local health officials, facilitating all employees to be able to work from home. EcoOnline entirely encourages this government policy and has ensured that all staff have the means to work from home and all scheduled travel has been cancelled. If your organisation is doing the same you probably recognise that, to many, remote work is a new situation. This makes it even more relevant for EcoOnline to remind every organisation that they have a duty of care and to safeguard their staff.
Remote working often involves digital communication and virtual meeting capabilities so that the employees can communicate with customers and others, regardless of location. Organisations involved in remote working need policies and procedures to make sure they manage the hazards effectively. The implementation of employees working from home can lead to issues which some organisations have not met before. With the uncertainty of how long your employees may need to work from home the following areas should be carefully assessed, and the correct procedures should be put in place to minimise any hazard or issue which may arise over the coming weeks.
Firstly, it is essential for any company who is implementing a working from home option that they must compile a working from home policy. This document should be read, understood and signed by the employees and kept on record by the organisation. You’re working from home policy should include but not be limited to the following criteria and headings:
Working from Home Policy
Introduction: Your working environment and working practices are subject to the same working standards that are applied to the company’s offices regarding confidentiality, access to company documents and Health and Safety procedures.
Confidentiality: All company business information is regarded as confidential. Customer and staff information held or known by yourself is subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1988, Data Protection (Amendment) Act 2003.
Access to your home (with permission): This may be necessary to conduct an audit of health and safety provisions.
Home details: This is where the employer must know where you are conducting your work.
Communications: Your manager may request scheduled check-ins or updates with you while you are working from home.
Once the working from home policy is conducted this document should always be available to all employees. It is recommended that it is stored on a shared file which is accessible to all.
Once a policy has been established there are many other aspects of working from home which must be looked at. These can be risks, scenarios or general well-being of your staff that must be taken into consideration also. The best way to establish these is to implement a working from home risk assessment which all employees must complete. Below are some areas which we believe are important.
Working from Home Safely:
- (UK)Working From Home Legislation - The Health and Safety at Work Act should be applied in the same way to home workers as it is to workers carrying out their role in their employer’s setting. Regardless of where an employee works, employers still owe a duty of care to ensure their safety.
- (UK)Work Environment - It is important to assess the risks of issues such as available space and lighting. This can be done remotely by your employees if your assessments are detailed. There should be suitable access to the work room and the employee needs to ensure good standards of housekeeping, adequate lighting and the removal of any trailing leads
- (UK)Work Equipment - You should recommend similar furniture and equipment standards to a home workstation as you would in an office. A suitable desk and adjustable chair will normally be needed. These should be ergonomically designed to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal problems. Allowing your staff to bring the relevant equipment home with them when needed may be enough. i.e. Screens, chairs, mouse and keyboard if possible.
Remote working hazards extend beyond the physical work environment. Some employees may find it difficult to adapt to working in an environment with limited social contact, while others may find it harder to manage their time or to separate work from home life. Employees need to be aware of issues of time management and social isolation and they must realise that working from home isn’t always an easy option.
At times like these, employers must become flexible in the way that people work. Certain exceptions may be put in place to help workers conduct their work without any major stress or worry. Introducing flexible working hours may help with workers unable to remove home life with work life. This could be caused by lack of childcare or privacy in the home to get the work done. Everyone’s home life and situation is different and to make these small changes could help relieve stress or help productivity amongst your workforce.
Ensuring that employees are happy and feel they can stay connected with their team is another very important aspect which must be considered for positive mental well-being. It has been implemented in many organisations to have daily video catch ups to ensure the idea of teamwork continues when working remotely. Promoting a campaign in your workplace with a suggested title “virtual coffee break” is a great way to stay connected with your team.
As mentioned, Working from home can be difficult. We have outlined some tips for employees which could help them improve productivity and ensure a healthy work life balance.
- Get up early and at your regular time, as if you were heading out to work. Continuing your morning routine can help productivity and promote some sort of normality.
- Dress as if you were supposed to go the office, feel fresh and presentable in case of a video conference
- If you, as many are in the situation, combining both working from home and childcare, set aside some time to play or for homeschooling
- Plan your workday with breaks in advance. It is also important that remote workdays have a clear start and end time.
- Be active in communicating with colleagues, supervisors and partners, take advantage of online chat, email and teleconferencing
- Do not eat at your desk! Make sure to create a nice routine for your lunch break
- Make it clear to people in your remote environment, such as family members, that you need to be allowed to work in peace.
- Keep your work space clean & organised
- Make a to-do list for the week and one for each day to ensure you keep focused during these distracting times.
We have developed a specific Working Safely at Home Checklist which can aid the transition for many organisations. We have also developed the following:
- COVID-19 Preparedness Checklist
- Infection incident report Template
Including these features we have specifically developed for Covid-19, EcoOnline EHS has many other modules which can help you take back control of your Health & Safety Management in these difficult times.
- Customisable Risk Assessment
- Actions Management
- Document Management
- Training Management
Our Smartforms feature can also allow you to create your own forms, if or when they may be needed.
We will continue providing the best services for you and protect the health of our people, and our customers. EcoOnline have a dedicated team to deal with any queries, on hand when at this crucial time.