An article by Jenny Collis at Fit and Able
Do you have measures in place for supporting your employees who want to continue home working?
In March 2020, as lock down measures were enforced, home working became a sudden significant change in working life. Many employees had never worked from home before and had concerns over the physical and mental challenges home working brings. Many cobbled together a work station and embraced the new lifestyle. And a significant number have enjoyed the change. So as lock down restrictions are lifting, a number of employees are exploring the possibilities of longer term home working with their employer.
This undoubtedly brings about challenges for employers – perhaps the work role can be home-based; and maybe this has benefits for both parties – but what are the health and safety risks? What are your employer obligations?
The risk areas to consider are:
- Working with display screen equipment (DSE)
- Lone working
- Stress and mental health
Firstly, as an employer you have an obligation to facilitate a home work station risk assessment. The best way is self-assessment ensuring that they have adequate training and knowledge. Using the HSE DSE checklist is a good solution. The most commonly asked question is how much equipment you have to provide. This hinges on the location of the main work station, contracts and company policy around flexible home working. However, there are many cost-effective solutions for home working e.g. a laptop stand with a separate keyboard and mouse provides a simple way of converting a laptop into a suitable DSE set-up.
Communication is key in avoiding the pitfalls of home working. Poor communication can lead to employees feeling isolated, disconnected, and abandoned especially when things go wrong. This can impact on stress and mental health and it is advisable to be aware of the early signs. Click here for more information.
During the lock down we have provided virtual work station assessments for a number of people who have been struggling with back, neck, shoulder and upper limb pain. Most of these people had been slow to report their issues, not wanting to make a fuss during difficult times. We were able to resolve their issues with advice and simple recommendations and they all avoided the need for sickness absence.
So, if you are able to accommodate home working in the longer term, make sure your employees have the right equipment, set up correctly, risk assessed and documented and establish good lines of communication.
If you have anyone who reports discomfort when working from home or in the office, we are able to provide virtual (and in the near future a return to face to face) work station assessments throughout the UK.