While homeworking is nothing new for many freelancers and remote workers, more people than ever are currently working from home.
Office-based risk management doesn’t just apply to the workplace; health and safety is also crucial in your home office to avoid incident and injury.
Often, remote working feels more casual because workers are in their home. This informal environment may feel more relaxed and result in less stringent safety measures. Being so familiar with your home environment can make risk assessments seem excessive, but home working health and safety can not only mitigate risk but also boost productivity.
Environmental Factors Affecting Homeworking
Environmental factors to consider in any office environment include lighting, ventilation, noise and temperature. Homeworking relies on workers having ideal conditions for a full working day. Natural light can help ease headaches associated with display screen working, so rooms with windows are ideal. While employers can’t guarantee the working conditions of a person’s home, they should encourage workers to get some fresh air and look away from the screen where possible.
Hygiene and cleanliness are also environmental factors to consider in homeworking. There is some truth to the saying “Tidy desk, tidy mind”. A clean and tidy work environment will lessen distraction and is ideal for clarity and organisation of thoughts.
With slips and trips being the most common kind of accident, it’s important to consider ways to reduce this risk in a home working environment. Loose cables are a potential trip hazard, so the home office set up should keep wires and cables tidy and removed from walkways.
Home Office Ergonomics
Ergonomics in your home office is an opportunity to drastically reduce the risks of workplace injury. A good chair can address many physical complaints, so while it’s tempting to work from the sofa, you’re more likely to thank yourself for investing in a decent office chair. But the chair can’t do all the work; workers should stay mindful of not slouching and also sitting close to the desk to avoid overreaching.
The height of your desk should enable you to work with your elbows supported and at a 90-degree angle. Keep your mouse and keyboard close to you so that they are accessible and within comfortable reach. Workers should keep their wrists straight, as bending at the wrist to type puts workers at risk of health issues like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Building good habits like this will reduce the risk of neck and shoulder pain and headaches.
For those people who are working at home on a long-term basis, the risks associated with using display screen equipment (DSE) must be controlled. This includes them doing workstation assessments at home.
The Effects of Lone Working at Home
Working unsupervised can mean that workers don’t necessarily follow the same structure they would in an office. One behavioural hazard associated with lone working is not taking recommended breaks. Of 1 thousand people now working from home due to COVID-19, this working from home report showed that 41% of workers are more likely to work through lunch. Without management there to enforce breaks, it is easier for workers to bypass break requirements. While the law states employers must accommodate breaks for display screen users, there is no way to enforce this for remote workers. These breaks reduce the health risks associated with working at a screen, so should form part of your home office risk management.
Lone working can also have a severe effect on mental health. According to the same report, 32% of workers pointed out that their mental health had been negatively affected by working from home due to COVID-19. Employers should encourage communication to make up for the interpersonal contact workers may be losing out on if they do not normally work from home. Management should make themselves available and stringent HR processes should be in place to support workers as they find themselves in a new work environment.
Author Bio: David Ford
David Ford is a knowledgeable Compliance Lead with CHAS, the UK’s leading provider of risk mitigation, compliance and supply chain management services. He has 30 years of experience working within the construction sector in covering cost and contractor management, inspection and risk assessment. Skilled in business health and safety executive support, David is passionate about the development of people at all levels, from board to site. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-ford-cmiosh-264b4751/