The traditional 9-5 office routine is a thing of the past as working remotely, at least part of the time becomes the “new normal”. Previously, employees were required to commute to work, log in, and stay put until the end of their 8-hour day. As working trends change, companies and their employees are embracing the concept of flexible working, but it’s important to remember that while our work location has changed, the importance of staff safety has not.
When we think of people working from home, we imagine flexibility, a bit of a sleep in, or working from the couch. But, what about how staff are coping up with isolation, or whether their work from home situation is safe for them.
It’s critical for a business to understand the benefits and risks of having their staff working from home, eg. protecting their physical and mental health. By keeping staff safety top of mind, even when they’re not in the office you help staff remain productive, and well.
Here are some tips to make sure your employees are aware of the potential danger and health-related hazards while they are working from home.
- Conducting your own Risk Assessment: Employers should first make sure that employees have an appropriate space to work at home. The following are important factors to consider: hazards of tripping or falling, lighting, ventilation, electrical safety, and the general surrounds like noise, security, fire exit access, and so on.
- Ensure Employees have the Right Set-up: Work-related health risks exist at home just as they do in the office, especially from an ergonomic standpoint. Provide your staff with clear instructions on how to create a safe home office environment, including how to set up an ergonomic workstation. Allowing employees to borrow essential equipment from the office, or reimbursing expenses for their set-up will allow them to be both comfortable and protected, and let them know that you have their safety as a top priority.
- Keeping an Open Dialogue: Businesses should keep in mind that working from home can be isolating for some employees. Keep an eye on your team and their well-being by communicating regularly through emails, phone calls, or Zoom catch-ups. Consider the occasional casual get-together over video, like triva nights, online cooking, or exercise classes.
- Mental Health: Not all health and safety issues faced by your staff working from home are physical. Remote workers’ mental health can take a hit if they are working alone for long periods of time. Employees working in isolation often experience burnout.Having your office and home in one place makes it harder to shut down and switch off. This lack of boundaries can lead to working longer hours, sleep disruptions, anxiety, and a multitude of mental health issues.
- Hold Safety Meetings: Create an online workplace health and safety committee to inform and guide employees regarding safety topics. Regular employee feedback is beneficial as it alerts managers to potential risks that employees might face while working in isolation, which can otherwise go unnoticed. Make staff feel valued by asking about their well-being from time to time, and it will definitely boost their mental health and productivity.
- Making Safety Fun: Creating online safety-themed trivia, quizzes, and videos, or motivating your employees by organising friendly competitions with incentives can be a way to get them to pay attention to their safety and wellbeing, in a fun way.
The good news is that working from home is generally considered low-risk. However, employers are still required by law to safeguard the well-being of their employees. Employers should evaluate and review the occupational risks associated with remote working settings to ensure that the environment is safe for their employees.