Moving Office Work to Home – is it healthy and safe?

You’ve probably seen the videos over the last couple of weeks showing home video meeting fails – children pulling faces in the background of important meetings, dogs seated on laps licking the keyboard and lunches being made in the background.

As amusing as these are, they highlight the pace with which COVID-19 has forced a large number of people to work from home with little preparation and basic equipment. This has been a huge adjustment for many who have never (or rarely) worked from home. In fact, there’s a high possibility you are reading this article at your home workstation right now!

How bad can it be to work from home?

As attractive as the perception of working from home might be, the reality is that working from home has not been an easy transition for everyone or for every business. Not everyone has a home environment which mirrors their work office. There are some people working from a kitchen table while also home schooling their children.  Others are working from a coffee table in their lounge room with their device resting precariously on their knees. The lucky ones have a dedicated home office where doors can be closed and light let in, with fresh air, plants and an ergonomic chair and external monitor. Those who aren’t so fortunate should read on…

What should employers do to support workers?

In Australia, safety legislation applies to all workers regardless of where they are required to work. This means employers are required to reduce the risk of injury or illness to workers to as low as is reasonably achievable so workers can continue to work from their home safely.

There are a variety of physical risks such as poor workstation set-up, heat, cold, electrical safety and home hygiene. Then there are the psychosocial risks such as isolation, reduced social support from managers and colleagues, fatigue and possibly increased exposure to family and domestic violence.

It is, therefore, very important to encourage workers to regularly review how they are working at home and discuss any issues identified with their managers, to ensure they are working safely.

Discussions could include strategies to assist workers to:

  • Manage their health and mindset;
  • Focus and avoid distractions;
  • Create new daily routines to assist productivity;
  • Improve their home workstation set-up and work environment (i.e. lighting and noise);
  • Create boundaries between work and home;
  • Communicate with colleagues and team leaders openly and often; and
  • Prevent social isolation.

What should employers do to improve their existing processes?

For the first time ever, working from home policies and programs are under pressure to keep the majority of a businesses’ workers well and productive during a pandemic. Employers should take this opportunity to improve and refine their working from home processes based on the experience of their current at-home workforce and prepare for future workplace and employee needs.

If you need more information, hints and tips on how you can assist your workers to transition to a safe and productive work-at-home environment, join our Live webinar on Thursday 16th April at 2pm. Register now at this link.

Also, find out about Ai Group’s Virtual Home Workstation Assessments.

 

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Trinette Jaeschke
Trinette Jaeschke is Ai Group's National Manager – Safety and Workers' Compensation Services. Trinette has over 20 years’ experience in Work Health Safety and Injury Management within the private and public sector, including transport and logistics, manufacturing, warehousing, agriculture, mining, finance, food processing, foundries, health services and aged care.

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