Covid-19, Health & Safety

Temporary Home Working

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Temporary Home Working

As businesses start to take action against the second wave of Coronavirus and reintroduce temporary homeworking for many of their employees, they must remember that as an employer, they still have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers.

Considerations for home workers

When someone is working from home, whether it be permanently or in the current climate temporarily, as an employer you should consider the following:

  • How will you keep in touch and maintain contact with them?
  • What work activity will they be doing as part of their job function, and for how long?
  • Can the job be done safely from the home environment?
  • Do you need to put control measures in place to protect them against any additional risks as a result of homeworking?

There will always be greater risks for lone workers, including homeworkers, with no direct supervision or anyone immediately available to help should things go wrong.
You should ensure regular contact with lone workers to make sure they are healthy and safe, including those employees working from home.
If contact with employees is poor, they may feel disconnected, isolated or abandoned, which can have an adverse effect on their stress levels and mental health.

Display screen equipment and homeworking

For employees who work at home on a long-term basis, the risks associated with using display screen equipment (DSE)[2] must be controlled, which includes them completing a workstation assessment at home.
However, there is no increased risk from DSE work for those working at home temporarily. Therefore, in this situation it is not necessary for employers to ask them to carry out home workstation assessments.
Although a workstation assessment is not required for temporary homeworking, employers should as best practice provide workers with advice on completing their own basic assessment at home.
The HSE have a practical workstation checklist which can be used to help employees complete a basic assessment. This is available through the following link workstation checklist[3].
Whilst homeworking, temporarily or otherwise, there are some simple steps employees can take to reduce the risks from display screen work, including:

  • breaking up long spells of DSE work with rest breaks (at least 5 minutes every hour) or changes in activity
  • getting up and moving or doing stretching exercises
  • avoiding awkward, static postures by regularly changing position
  • avoiding eye fatigue by changing focus, look around the room, or blinking from time to time

Again, the HSE had produced a short presentation providing practical advice for temporary homeworkers which can be accessed through the following link Temp Homeworker Presentation.

Where employees need specialist equipment to carry out their work effectively, employers should try to meet those needs where possible.
In the case of keyboards, mouse, monitor riser, this could mean allowing workers to take this equipment home. However, where larger items are required such as ergonomic chairs, height-adjustable desks etc, employers should encourage workers to try alternative ways of creating a comfortable working environment. This may include the use of cushions for height adjustment and back support.
Where any period of temporary home working extends, employers should have regular discussions with workers to assess whether additional steps are needed. This will be required where employees report:

  • aches, pains or discomfort related to their temporary DSE arrangements
  • adverse effects of working in isolation
  • working longer hours without adequate rest and recovery breaks

In the event that employers decide to make their working from home arrangements permanent, they should explain how to carry out full workstation assessments and provide workers with the appropriate equipment and advice on control measures in place to reduce the risk of injury or ill health.
Employers must not lose sight of the fact that home working can in some cases cause work-related stress and affect people’s mental health. Being away from managers and colleagues could make it difficult to get proper support, therefore it is important that employers keep in touch, and put procedures in place enabling direct contact with home workers. By doing this you can recognise signs of stress[6] as early as possible. It is also important to have an emergency point of contact and share this with employees, so that people know how to get help or assistance should they need it.

For more information, contact a member of our Health & Safety team on 01274 864 999.

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