The global pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives, particularly with regards to our working environment. Many businesses have had to evolve and adapt very quickly in order to support remote personnel working from home.
While this can offer safety for staff against the spread if Covid-19, working from home can pose its own set of risks and issues, particularly if space is an issue or in terms of keeping confidential customer and client data secure.
We’ve provided a guide of considerations to help staff assess and be assessed for their working from home environment, to minimise risks to your company.
Do your employees have an appropriate workstation set up, or are they having to sit on their sofa or at a busy kitchen table whilst juggling a family life, with no appropriate work surface available?
Their workspace should have a firm, flat surface, with sufficient space and legroom, and at a suitable height to reduce stress on their posture. Their chair height should also maintain their comfort, so they are not slouching at their computer or laptop. Employees can suffer from back pain if they’re not sitting ergonomically.
Many companies have been supplying desks and office chairs to their employees, either by arranging for equipment from the office to be sent to their homes or ordering any new equipment, to ensure the working environment is more comfortable for their staff.
Correct postures should be assumed when working at the computer, with stretching and exercise undertaken when possible. Regular breaks should be taken away from the screen, to aid eye health and prevent headaches. Employees should have had an eye test within the last two years, and these should also be made available to staff by their company.
Assessment forms can review the conditions of staff and employees working from home and identify whether any equipment needs to be provided for them. These forms are designed to protect both the individual as well as protect the business from claims. These should be completed every 6-12 months or if an employee changes their working location, such as by moving rooms or even moving home, as their new working environment will need to be reassessed.
Screens, whether from a laptop or desktop computer, should be placed directly in front of the user, whilst being clean and free from smears, with no reflections or glares from windows. To prevent or minimise glare, staff could close any curtains or blinds, and adjust light where possible. Otherwise, this can strain the eyes and cause headaches. Where possible, the screen should be raised to the correct height using a monitor or laptop stand.
If the laptop screen is elevated on a stand, a separate keyboard and mouse should be used, to allow for a more comfortable working position to be adopted. If there is a separate mouse and keyboard, the keyboard should be directly in front of the user, and the mouse should be conveniently placed to use, with plenty of room to move it.
Any equipment needed to complete work (including phone handsets, headsets, as well as laptops and other computer gear) should be in good condition and have been PAT tested in the past year.
Staff should regularly check all of their equipment, including cables and plugs. Any equipment that is damaged or been exposed to water should not be used. An adequate number of electrical sockets should also be available for use, or safe fuse-protected multi socket adapters should be supplied so that old or faulty ones don’t cause any equipment electrical shortages.
Wires and cables should also be cleared away at end of the day, with these moved out of the reach of pets and children to prevent them from tripping over and hurting themselves or damaging the wires.
Any children or pets in the home whilst employees are working can present their own set of risks. A first aid kit should always be on hand. This can be provided to employees to ensure safety in the home.
All companies should have the most up to date contact details of all staff members, including their direct contact phone number and email addresses, in case of crisis or emergencies.
Emergency contact numbers for incidents should be promoted to staff, with an accident reporting procedure devised based on the severity. This can include anything from reporting household accidents to their manager, to reporting issues which could affect the company, such as data breaches or even data or equipment theft to the technical team. Employees must report any data or equipment thefts or losses immediately.
With the potential risk of exposed or vulnerable networks from staff working from home on their own open wifi systems, there is a greater risk of a data breach or data theft for a company from employees being hacked. Ensuring staff are safely accessing work and systems from home via a secure VPN (virtual private network), enhancing security procedures, such as when handling client or customer information and data, and restricting remote access to servers through passwords and a hierarchy system, will aid in providing security for your company’s or client’s data.
In case of a data loss, theft or breach, we can assist your company with data recovery. We can respond quickly with the expertise and experience to minimise damage, speedily analyzing the situation and implementing the right course of action to help restore information and keep your business on track.
With no end yet in sight for the return to ‘traditional’ business offices, and many employees forced to work from home in the current pandemic, it is up to the employer to assist their staff. If you can help to look after your employees working from home, they will look after you.