Mar 19th 2020
Employees working from home - Is your business ready for the change?
Is your business ready for the change in workplace dynamics? Do you have the correct policies, procedures and tools in place to manage the transition? Remember - employers of workers who work remotely still have a duty of care to these employees.
Working from home is already a growing trend for people to work away from the office using digital technology, internet, phones, video conferences, and other information technology meaning daily trips to an office can be unnecessary.
Now, due to the increasing threat of Coronavirus (COVID-19), many employers are organising for their workers to work at home in an attempt to slow infection rates. In addition, some workers are self-isolating for 14 days due to either having been in contact with someone who has the virus, or because they have returned from overseas and are expected to work from home.
Seven steps to consider?
The need for employees to work from home should be considered on a case by case basis. Working from home may not always be possible due to operational or personal requirements. Employees who require close supervision or personal interaction with other staff may also not be suitable for working from home arrangements.
When assessing working from home arrangements, you should consider:
- The nature of the work and whether the same task can be done from home - Let’s face it; not every job undertaken at a workplace can be done while at home. Working from home works well when an employee works on a computer all day, but that would be difficult if personal interaction with other team members is a requirement of the role.
- Impacts on efficiency and productivity - Perhaps your employee does multiple tasks and removing them from the workplace would lead to losses in efficiency. An option may be to work from home on select days and rearrange workflows to suit. Every business is unique, so only you will know what’s best.
- Whether sufficient resources can be made available? - Does the business have computers and communication equipment to spare? Maybe workers already use laptops, so it's not a problem or perhaps employees are happy to use their own equipment at home.
- The impact on other employees - Working from home for select employees could place a strain on employees that must stay at work. This strain could be in terms of additional work requirements, less support if crucial members are at home, or emotional stress due to health concerns or other factors.
- The ability of the employee to self manage their work performance - Would the work at home employee be able to self manage their work, or would they need to be managed remotely? New or inexperienced staff may not be able to work alone.
- Financial impacts – Imagine the financial impact on your business should you need to shut down. One worker infected with the coronavirus could force the entire company workforce into isolation.
- Community impacts – With the pandemic Coronavirus spreading in the community, the effects of requiring workers to still come to work, where they could work from home, could be a possible breach in the duty of care to employees.
Implementing Policies & Procedures
Implementing policies and providing a process to make a request to work at home and for the application to be responded to formally is good practice.
Policies and procedures for working at home should contain an agreement form for dates of commencement and termination, the work to be undertaken, expected outcomes and any management approvals needed. It is also good to include requirements for confidentially, insurance requirements, health and safety requirements, and necessary equipment.
Implement a review-and-renewal process for any working at home agreements and ensure the employee understands that the agreement is for a fixed period at all times and can be subject to change, as your business requirements change.
Occupational Health & Safety Considerations
Workers and employers share a duty of care concerning workplace health and safety. This includes when working from home.
Working from home should only be considered where the home site is deemed a safe area to work, and a safe system of work is in place. Workers compensation arrangements apply to all injuries in the course of employment, whether the injury occurred while the person was working from home or at the normal workplace.
Even though workers are at home, the employer should still ensure there are sufficient controls in place to enable workers to perform their work safely. Workers should also take all necessary steps to eliminate or minimise hazards and risks to their safety and others in the home. The following points are critical considerations for anyone working from home:
- Identification of hazards and risks – A simple checklist can be handy for identifying hazards when working from home. Understanding that the employee lives at home probably means that there are no significant hazards anyway, but it is still good to address the changes that occur when working at home. For example, does the ergonomic setup of a computer workstation at home have good lighting, is the chair and desk appropriate for sitting for long periods? There may be other hazards added by working at home that is not usually present, such as trip hazards from extra power leads or items have been moved to different locations.
- Help and emergency services can be summoned as and when required – It is important to remember that working from home can be isolating and workers may be alone. How would you know if a worker becomes incapacitated and was unable to self-help? Regular check-ins or other communication protocols can alert employers that something may be wrong.
- A reliable, efficient communication system is in place – Simple things like making sure mobile phones are charged can save a life. For regular communication, many information technology options are available such as video conferencing and monitoring, internet phones or other options. Regular communication with work at home employees is the key to managing employees health and welfare.
Author: Craig Cruickshank
Available for instant download and supplied in fully editable MS Word format for use in your business.
Please note that the above information is provided as a comment only and should not be relied on as professional, legal or financial advice.
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