Flexible Working at Home
Flexible Working at Home
What do I need to do for Flexible Working at Home?
With the current landscape of uncertainty over the spread of Coronavirus, businesses are being encouraged and advised to allow their employees to work from home, rather than their main place of work.
Some companies may already be set up for this, others not so much.
There is no absolute law about ‘flexible working’ but the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to assess risks to employees and have arrangements to control and manage these risks to an adequate level. Flexible working falls into the category of a potential risk that needs managing.
We’ll discuss and give advice on the health and safety elements of flexible working in the page below but there are other considerations to be aware of too…
Other Non H&S Considerations for Flexible Working
- Do you need to discuss with your HR team or advisers with regards to working hours, contractual arrangements etc? if unsure just ask them
- Productivity of workers at home – if someone has never worked from home, they may find it hard to settle into a groove of working effectively or efficiently
- Connectivity – do you have the right IT and computing infrastructure in place such as laptops, online chat functionality, cloud-based file storage and ability to access emails from the internet.
- Security – if you are allowing remote working and connection to your company emails, file storage etc do you have the correct online security in-place to safeguard against hacking or accidental breaches of confidentiality or data losses/leaks
- Isolation – some people will feel very isolated not being part of a physical team, keep in contact and check in with these workers, especially if this is there first time working from home
As a point of completeness, flexible working is different to permanent homeworking; for people employed to work permanently from home, their contracts are typically different and the approach you take to assess their health and safety is a little more involved. This post is focused on flexible working only, although there are some similarities.
What Health and Safety is needed for Flexible working?
- What Equipment do They Need?
- Training, Procedures and Assessment
- Workstation Setup and Movement
The chances are they will need to be provided with a laptop or already have one. Working on a laptop compromises posture wherever they are used. How long and where it is used determine how quickly the compromise turns into aches and pains.
If you are providing laptops think about providing guidance on safe workstation set up – desk, chairs, screen height etc. Ultimately for regular work from a laptop a user should be using an external keyboard, mouse and screen or laptop stand.
They will also ideally need a desk or surface to work from that allows a good posture to be maintained as well as a seat designed for computer work and/or a standing desk arrangement.
We are real fan fans of standing desks at Safewell, as long as the setup is right, and users understand good posture when standing and how to recognise fatigue leading to bad habits.
Other considerations for home working might include
- guidance on electrical safety for equipment they use, you can’t insist they change their personal electrical standards but some well-placed advice might help them, but you can require company property to be PAT tested.
- Setting up suitable lighting in their working area
- Taking regular breaks
- Stretching and mobilising after desk work
- Encouraging light exercise for mood and posture quality
Document your flexible working procedure or system of working and ensure employees are trained on and aware of it. Make it user friendly so it acts as a resource of useful information for the end user, as well as stating the company’s responsibility. A good tool in the procedure for flexible working is a self-assessment that the flexible workers complete – it should both help assess their flexible working arrangements and guide them to the priority areas to improve.
It’s a good idea to provide training to staff on setting up their environment for working at home.
This is an interesting one…if someone is not used to working from home they could very quickly become or feel isolated. They may also not be as productive as they would in the office. The isolation may lead to mental health issues particularly with the unsettling changes associated with coronavirus currently in the UK.
Keeping in contact with flexible workers will be critical and making use of online technology and phone will be critical to their wellbeing. For online consider a shared platform such Microsoft Teams, Zoom, WhatsApp, Skype or similar where screen sharing, instant messaging and video calling are all possibilities. Others are available!
Workstation Set Up
If someone is working at home they should be shown how to set up their workstations to maximise good posture and minimise fatigue and poor working positions. Working from home using non-purpose equipment to create a workstation could lead very quickly to discomfort, aches and pains. A good rule of thumb is to use your standard DSE Workstation assessment to review what standard of homeworking set up someone has and from there you can advise on appropriate work station set up and suitable kit. Some the employee may have, others the employer will need to assist with under their duties to employees.
Any person working at home from a laptop should have a separate screen, keyboard and mouse so they can set their work area for optimal posture. Hunching over a laptop is a guaranteed recipe for aches and pains!
A chair that allows good posture and neutral back support is also advised and a desk / table with sufficient space for the work being carried out.
Stretching, Mobility and Movement
When working at home there might be less routine for someone to get up and move about. It is import to take frequent breaks, walk around, move each part of the body and stretch. Schedule in daily exercise and breaking up the repetition of just sitting. If you have not developed a regular home exercise routine we would strongly advise this – whether its a workout, a walk, lunchtime gardening or something else that gets you up and moving for at least 30 mins a day. If you need inspiration here are some office stretches to try out. Otherwise search for office, desk and chair stretches and exercises to find something you like. Doing something, anything is better than not – so find something you like 🙂
Here is a fun, but also serious challenge – if you think you can sit in a chair like an expert then check to see if you sit in 10 natural non chair positions. Or more importantly, are you comfortable with not needing a chair to be comfortable!
If You Need More Help
If this is you asking – ‘What do I need to do for Flexible Working at Home?’ call Team Safewell Now and we can help you quickly and efficiently. We can help with:
- creating a flexible working assessment approach
- documenting a flexible working procedure and forms
- helping with online training in flexible work station set up (using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc) either as a group or 1:1
- Occupational health referrals for medical condition, or aches and pains from home working