Many businesses have begun to embrace the idea of flexible working and working from home and, in the current climate, more and more of us may find ourselves plunged into doing so for longer than the one to two days a week, which employers and employees adapt to fairly easily.
It is predicted that by 2020, half of UK’s workforce will work from home, according to the Office for National Statistics. This hub has been put together by SHP, Barbour EHS and The Healthy Work Company to provide research, case studies, videos and resources to enable you to lead this transition in a way which safeguards the wellbeing of your teams and maximises the opportunity to embrace new ways of working for the future.
In an age where work and life need to integrate much more successfully, remote working can be a wonderful thing. But it is also full of pitfalls for both managers and employees. Our hub will help your organisation to navigate those.
Home worker or lone worker?
Writing for SHP in 2018, Worthwhile Training’s Nicole Vazquez suggested employers need to be aware that their home workers are lone workers and should be treated as such, particularly when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.
The rise in home working has mirrored the rise in technology. Robust broadband means employees can now check-in with the office from the spare room, coffee shop or just about anywhere with an internet connection.
Benefits to employers are obvious; finances improve as overheads like office space and other facilities are offset as employers provide their own workspace. Workers often report increased motivation from the flexibility that remote working offers, increasing productivity and staff retention.
However, like the railway engineer and security guard the home worker is still classified as a lone worker; something often overlooked by employers.
Heather Beach, Founder of the Healthy Work Company, has been a home worker and has managed home workers for the last three years. She is ready to admit she made lots of mistakes and as a result had to research the topic thoroughly. She has started a Facebook group for those new homeworkers needing support with looking after themselves.
Home worker wellbeing webinar
Catch up with our health & wellbeing in the workplace webinar. With many employers advising staff work from home during the coronavirus outbreak, it also look at how period of self-isolation or prolonged time working from home can affect health & wellbeing and require a different approach from managers. The session featured Faye McGuinness, Head of Workplace Wellbeing Programmes at Mind, Heather Beach, Founder and Managing Director at The Healthy Work Company and Teresa Higgins, Brand Director at Barbour EHS.
- Mental Health at Work – the current picture across the UK;
- Insights from Mind’s 2018/19 Workplace Wellbeing Index;
- ROI: The ‘low hanging fruit’ versus organisation culture change;
- Practical steps employers can take: The Mental Health at Work Commitment;
- Wellbeing of remote workers: A period of self-isolation or prolonged time working from home can affect health & wellbeing and require a different approach from managers. Here are some considerations for both individuals and their managers.
Tips for working from home
There is no doubt that as well as the anxiety provoked by a potentially deadly virus and no toilet roll or pasta in the supermarket, we are also facing the very likely fact that many workers will be being plunged into home working for the first time, to speak nothing of the potential requirements for isolation.
Some of those workers may already have experience of a day or so a week, but few of them will have worked full time from home and few of their managers will have managed large teams in such a situation either.
A report from the World Economic Forum in 2019 pointed to the fact that a 2017 United Nations report found that 41% of remote workers reported high stress levels, compared to just 25% of office workers. The WEF believed that being ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and the tendency for managers to become increasingly task focused and actually attempt to micromanage more than before was partly to blame.
Conversely, Charalampous et al. in 2018 found that remote working was associated with higher workplace wellbeing with the benefit of flexibility and autonomy.
What we do know though, according to ACAS guidance is that “only suitable people should be offered the choice of regular remote working” (with suitability not just about them as people but also about their home set up). And here we are about to put everyone, suitable or not, into that boat, in an environment which is already highly charged.
The research on how to be a good home worker is mostly focused around entrepreneurs who are accountable just to themselves. The research on how to be a good manager of remote teams is sparse.
Home working laptop ergonomics: Basic tips
Working at home with kids
If you work from home, your employer must make sure there is a risk assessment of your work activities. With the current government guidelines in place, HSE says it is not necessary for someone to visit you, but you should complete a questionnaire and provide appropriate evidence e.g. photographs. This will help decide if sufficient steps have been taken to prevent harm to you or anyone else who may be affected by your work. HSE has also said that a DSE risk assessment is not required for this period.
Work-Life Balance Campaign
Work-life balance has been on the political agenda since 2000 when the Government launched its Work-Life Balance Campaign. Home working comes under the category of flexible working arrangements, a concept which is actively promoted under the Employment Rights Act 1996, as amended by the Children and Families Act 2014. The Children and Families Act 2014 means that any employee with more than 26 weeks service can request flexible working, regardless of whether they are carers or parents. This legislation does not create a right to flexible working, but the employer has to consider a request seriously and there are set procedures for the employer to follow and the reasons for refusal have to be provided to the employee in writing.
This guide includes:
- Legal requirements;
- Benefits of working from home;
- Successful working from home;
- Pitfalls of working from home;
- Managing home workers;
- Arrangements for securing health & safety at home;
BBC & ITV amend television outpur to assist with information, wellbeing and schooling for home workers
The BBC has announced it will focus more of its programmes, including The One Show, on the coronavirus outbreak, while ITV will broadcast a series of news specials. Schedule changes include:
- A weekly prime-time coronavirus special will be broadcast on Wednesdays on BBC One;
- The One Show will be used as a consumer programme for all aspects of the crisis, including health and wellbeing advice;
- Newsround bulletins for children will remain on air throughout the day on CBBC, and there will be a new iPlayer experience for children;
- Educational programming for school children will be increased across iPlayer and the red button, with a daily educational programme for different key stages or year groups. BBC Bitesize will also be expanded;
- A virtual church service on Sunday mornings will be launched across local radio in England, led initially by the Archbishop of Canterbury, while the corporation aims to explore ways to reflect other religions, including in the run-up to Ramadan
Coronavirus: How to protect your mental health
Coronavirus has plunged the world into uncertainty and the constant news about the pandemic can feel relentless. All of this is taking its toll on people’s mental health, particularly those already living with conditions like anxiety and OCD.
A recent seminar, held in 2019 by law firm, Clyde & Co, titled Effective Safety Leadership in the Workplace, suggested that employers must provide extra care for employees that work from home, or there will be an increase number of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
Clyde & Co Partner, David Tait, emphasised that “the modern workplace includes working from home. Indeed, it’s a practice that’s encouraged by many employers. Employees have to work in an agile manner, which includes using laptops in locations like train stations and coffee shops”.
As more businesses search for solutions, guidance and expertise surrounding the increasing challenges of workplace wellbeing and mental health, HR and wellbeing professionals will come together at the Workplace Wellbeing Show 2020, which takes place from 8-10 September at ExCeL, London.
Alongside official charity parter Mind, the Workplace Wellbeing show will being a wide-range of live content and interactive sessions on stress, mental ill-health and wellbeing.
Training for home workers
The British Safety Council is offering free online training courses for home workers as the nation changes its working habits to meet the threat of coronavirus. As millions of workers in Britain set themselves up to work from home, they will be adjusting to a whole new way of working and preparing to miss the social contact of their workplace. To support them the British Safety Council is offering courses for free until the middle of April:
- Remote Workers’ Health Safety and Welfare;
- Mental Health: Start the Conversation are aimed at all employees.
There is also a course on Managing Stress Within Your Team – helpful to managers looking after teams working from different locations at a time of major national crisis.
Employers are required to protect the health, safety and welfare of all employees, including those who are working away from the office.
Mike Robinson, British Safety Council, Chief Executive said: “Across Britain people are making big changes to their work routine and millions of people are working from home for the first time. This will mean quite an adjustment for lots of people. Working away from the office has implications for workers and managers.
“Even in normal times it’s important for peoples’ wellbeing to make sure they are connected to their colleagues and their work if they are not coming into the workplace – at a time of serious anxiety in the life of our country keeping an eye on your wellbeing and your colleagues’ wellbeing will be really important.”
“It is our founding mission at the British Safety Council to ensure that nobody is injured or made ill through their work – and that includes people working from home in a national crisis. I hope by offering out our expertise for free with some accessible online courses people will see some real value.”
Home working essentials for managers
Barbour EHS has put together this handy guide, which details what managers should consider while employees are temporarily working from home.
While employees are temporarily working from home you should consider:
- The best way to keep in touch with them
- What work will they be doing?
- Is the planned work able to be completed safely?
- Are control measures needed?
What are your rights if working from home?
The BBC has provided the following home working advice page, looking at who provides the equipment when working from home and who is responsible for workers while they work at home.