Many throughout the UK are now working from home to abide by the Government’s lockdown measures, put in place to help slow the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
In most cases, employers moved quickly to respond to Government advice and for many, this has resulted in new challenges arising. Many are now asking – what support should they be providing to those working from home?
In this article we look to answer that question and discuss some of the issues that employers are now trying to navigate.
Most organisations have helped to support the country by responding quickly and asking those who can to work from home. This has meant that those who previously worked in offices have had to migrate their workstations to home environments.
Some have space at home to create workstations, in areas such as home offices – but for many, they have had to create workstations where they can – on dining room tables or wherever space is available.
For employers this creates concerns regarding ergonomics and DSE (Display Screen Equipment) requirements, previously adhered to in office environments. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has advised that the measures workforces have had to adapt to are ‘temporary’ and therefore employers do not have to complete at-home workstation assessments.
Even so, many employers want to ensure their employees work safely to prevent new injuries or aggravating existing health conditions. Employers should consider sharing relevant DSE guidance where possible and DSE e-learning courses that home workers can complete.
Some employers may also consider asking home workers to complete DSE self-assessments, but we feel these are largely redundant considering most employers will be unable to address any risks or hazards identified.
Coronavirus means that its not just working lives that have been disrupted, but other aspects of people’s lives too. In the UK, schools have been closed for the foreseeable future and therefore parents are likely to now be responsible for the care of their children whilst also working from home.
This presents its own challenges which employers will need to consider and look to support, as many parents will be required to supervise children and their educational needs.
Disabled workers may also now face new challenges as the support they previously relied upon may have been affected. In these cases, employers should do what they can, within reason, to try to ensure these employees are safe.
As per our Coronavirus Q&A article, the advice we are sharing with our clients is to act responsibly and ethically, not out of fear of prosecution, but out of a sense of appropriate accountability to all staff and customer stakeholders, to stay current and do all that is reasonably practicable.
Working and living alone can increase the risk to an employee’s wellbeing, mental health and ability to respond to emergencies.
As with DSE assessments, existing legislation, procedures and policies related to an employer’s Duty of Care for lone workers are likely to be relaxed due to the temporary nature of Coronavirus measures.
Even so, employers should prioritise identifying lone workers and maintaining good communication so they can provide additional e-learning lone worker training, support and guidance.
Communication is key when it comes to lone workers. There are remote communication models employers can look to implement to navigate the situations many employees find themselves in currently.
Monitoring lone workers is also crucial if they live alone or in a remote environment. Employers can look to implement daily ‘check-in’ procedures so they can ensure the wellbeing of staff on a day-to-day basis.
Mental health strategies
The implications of Coronavirus and self-isolation mean many employees are now likely to be more at risk of mental health issues.
Many employees are likely already feeling the effects of increased anxieties surrounding their health, incomes and family situations – and this can impact their physical health, wellbeing and work output.
Although employers are limited in the face-to-face support they can provide, they can communicate with employees using technology and provide advice on the proactive measures employees can take to maintain and improve their mental health.
The UK lockdown measures mean we are only allowed to leave our homes for exercise once a day and this should be encouraged. Sunlight and fresh air can improve mood, so where possible those working from home should be encouraged to spend time in their gardens or outside safely.
Socialising is also important to our mental health, and thanks to technology, we can still do this safely in isolation using social media and video calling apps such as Skype. Many organisations are making efforts to maintain employee socialising events using video conferencing.
Working from home employer support resources
Advice is ever-changing and most employers are doing everything they can to ensure the safety of their employees and stakeholders. What employers should try to remember is in these unprecedented times, many employees are sympathetic to the situation many organisations find themselves in.
Here at Cardinus, we have experience working with organisations and employers in difficult and challenging circumstances. We provide a wide range of e-learning and self-assessment software and free employer resources.