For some of us, working from home is not unusual. However, due to recent events (COVID-19) this has led to an increase in people working from home. Whether working from home is a temporary measure or long term adjustment, it is important that your workstation and working environment is one which is good and safe for you.
Although there is no increased risk from using display screen equipment (DSE) when temporarily working from home, these arrangements should be regularly discussed with employees to establish any health, safety and wellbeing concerns that may arise due to these arrangements. It is important as employers that you take reasonable precautions to assist in managing staff wellbeing when employees are working at home, whilst at the same time not interfering in personal affairs. This can be achieved by providing workstation checklists that can be assessed by the employee.
In addition to this regular DSE assessment reviews should be completed to determine if the current arrangements are appropriate and/or if any changes are needed
For employees who have either long term adjustments or even permanent changes to their working environment, employers should explain or assist in completing a full workstation assessment and provide equipment/advice on the control measure identified.
Setting up a good workspace
If the employee is working more often from home, then they should ideally choose one room as their office. This reduces physical intrusion into the home, helps keep domestic interruptions to a minimum and reduces risks to other people at home (for example young children). If the room is lockable, so much the better as it improves the security of your equipment and data.
You should also be careful about choosing attics and cellars, because these spaces often have limited access, poor temperature or ventilation control and a lack of natural light. General health and safety hazards need to be considered by both the employer and the worker because employers have little direct control over the home workplace.
You should apply similar furniture and equipment standards to a home workstation as you would in an office. These should be ergonomically designed to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal problems.
There are several risk factors that should be considered in order to complete a thorough assessment. The examples below consist of some of the risk factors and suggested ways of managing them;
Keyboards: Technique of the user, condition of the keyboard (legible characters, cleanliness)
- User technique training is useful in preventing excessive bending of hands at the wrist, overstretching of the fingers and hitting the keys too hard.
Mouse/Trackball: Suitability and positioning of the equipment, limb support and system settings
- Selecting the correct device is subjective to the user. Where a mouse or track ball device may not be the best option, a touchscreen device may be more appropriate.
- Arm/wrist support can be obtained from the desk/workspace. Additional measures of support for the wrist area can be applied to provide more comfort.
- Using the settings for the device that are best suited for the individual reduces stress.
Display Screens: Brightness, equipment specification, text size/screen cleanliness, swivel and tilt, glare and reflection.
- Having a clean screen, the appropriate cleaning materials available to hand and the ability to adjust screen settings (contrast/ brightness/ font) to make sure the screen can be clearly read.
- Equipment should have the right specification for the task required.
- Swivel and tilt mechanisms can be added to screens and need not be built in. The user should be able to position the screen in a comfortable position.
- Positioning the screen so that it does not reflect light and utilising window coverings correctly.
- Software should be reactive, up to date and user friendly. Training on complex software must be provided. All of which assists in maintaining low stress levels.
Furniture – Workspace, laptops, accessibility, seating and posture
- Maintain workspaces that are free from clutter and unnecessary items .
- Keep essential hardware and other items accessible (printers, notepads, telephone etc) and avoid non-essential desk items that may cause a distraction.
- When assessing seating and posture consider if the chair is suitable/stable. Can the seat height/back be adjusted? (Make sure your screen is the correct height. Adjust your chair and sit properly. Make sure that the top of your screen is in line with your eyebrows. This stops you from dropping your neck or slouching over the screen.)
- Are feet flat to the floor? Is the arm positioning correct?
- Use the laptop safely. If you are using a laptop, a laptop stand is advised to raise it to your eyeline.
Environment- Movement, lighting, air, temperature and noise
- Avoid cramped spaces. Allow room to stretch, keep the area obstruction free. (As a minimum, there should be enough room for work to be carried out, including space for the workstation, other equipment (e.g. printers) and storage of materials).
- Lighting should be able to be controlled the user.
- Appropriate ventilation and heat control measures in place. Excessive heat from equipment can cause fires.
- Tiredness is also be an effect of excessive heat in the workplace
Some people may find it difficult to adapt to working in an environment with limited social interaction and others may find time management a struggle.
It’s important to maintain good communication systems and formal means of contact with remote/work from home workers to minimise feelings of isolation. How you do this will depend on the number of workers you’re dealing with and what they’re doing, but employees and employers should:
- Have online meetings or virtual discussion forums, telephone or video-conferencing.
- Participate in regular meetings between remote workers and their co-workers – this gives employees the opportunity to network and get to know each other. They can also be used to deliver training or reinforce the organisation’s standards.
- Have access to the organisation’s intranet site or a secure area of the internet for employees for access to helplines for support in dealing with software problems and equipment failures, procedures if information technology systems fail.
- Identify people as key contacts who have specific responsibility for routinely contacting remote workers and acting as their first port of call.
- Providing contact details of key people such as employee representatives, health and safety advisers and human resources officers.
- Including remote workers in the circulation of company newsletters and updates.
Take regular breaks:
Often people assume people that work from home don’t work as hard, however, it is hard for them to switch off between home and work life. Taking regular, scheduled breaks and a clear start and finish time of work can reduced work related stresses that arise from this change in environment.
If you need any further advice on working from home please contact us