Does your Covid-19 response involve requesting workers to work from home?

For many organisations, directing people to work at home is becoming an increasing reality whether it be due to self-isolation due to return from overseas, proactive or reactive office closure or quarantine due to virus exposure just like Amazon, Facebook and Twitter in the US Amazon, Facebook, Twitter
With an increasing number of school closures too, parents may be forced into a working from home arrangement due to their family situation.

Work health and safety legislation places obligations on organisations to protect workers from health and safety risks in the ‘workplace’, which includes the home if work is conducted there.
Now for many roles (e.g. hospitality, trades, construction, childcare, healthcare etc.) there is no ability to work from home but for those that can, how can you make sure that their risk of illness or injury is minimised?

Lets look at 5 key actions to take to manage workers at home.

1.Safe Environment

Does the home-based worker have a designated space for work (ideally not the dining room table or couch) with suitable lighting, temperature and ventilation?
Are electrical risks managed with effective cable management and circuit breakers and is there a working smoke alarm and access to fire extinguisher in the event of an emergency?

2. Workplace Layout and Equipment

A dining chair, exercise ball or the couch is not going to cut it. Likewise working on a low-positioned laptop all day has numerous musculoskeletal risks. Do chairs have suitable back support, desks at appropriate heights and are monitors at eye level?

A home-based work assessment/ inspection form will likely be necessary to determine the suitability of the home environment and equipment prior to the commencement and for ongoing a home-based work arrangements. Organisations should verify that the workplace is appropriate through uploaded photos or physical assessment.

As a business have you determined what equipment, tools or reimbursements you would be prepared to provide for your workers at home?

3. Job Design

To avoid the call of Netflix, the washing and cooking dinner its important that the design of the work day remains very similar to what workers would do in the office.
Do you have regular in person checks with your team members? Still do that via phone or video call. Keep team meetings going through video calls, a much more effective means of communication and connection than the phone. Maintain instant messaging communications like Slack, Whats App and others to keep up team comraderie and reduce isolation.
Create and communicate the expected communication and job performance structure for any work at home roles be it sgort term of long term.

4. Security

Secure access to networks and secure information storage is critical for most roles these days and ensuring this occurs at home is a business prerogative.

5. Policies and procedures

Clear liaison is required between HR,Legal, IT and WHS regarding need for formalised policy and processes regarding working from home in a short term fashion, like what is required currently and for ongoing and agreed arrangements.

Home-based work agreements need to be established such that safety, employment, IT and security standards are all established and well communicated and understood by all parties in the process.

So, have you managed the risks of your home-based workers?

If you would like to learn more about your obligations to home-based workers or need further advice or assistance please get in contact!