As the shift towards hybrid work gains momentum in the post-pandemic landscape, it's crucial to recognise that this transition comes with its own set of health and safety considerations. While many organisations have already adapted to remote work during the past year, making it a permanent fixture necessitates a more comprehensive approach to ensuring employees' well-being both at home and in the office.
Health and Safety Law Applies Everywhere
It's essential to understand that the Health and Safety at Work etc Act (HSWA) 1974 extends its provisions to include remote workers. Employers bear a duty of care for their employees, regardless of their work location. This means taking into account the nature of the work, providing necessary equipment, establishing effective communication channels, offering mental health support, and creating mechanisms for issue reporting.
Identifying Hazards in the Home Office
Even though a home environment is generally considered safe, there are potential hazards that need consideration. These hazards must either be eliminated or mitigated to the lowest practicable level. Some common physical and mental health hazards associated with remote work include:
1. Working Alone: Without direct supervision, employees may face challenges in alerting others in case of emergencies.
2. Work-Related Stress and Isolation: Overworking tendencies and a lack of interaction with colleagues can lead to stress and feelings of isolation.
3. Clutter and Obstacles: Loose cables, scattered paperwork, and clutter can lead to slips, trips, and falls.
4. Faulty or Inadequate Equipment: Using faulty or incorrect equipment can lead to injuries.
5. Increased Fire Risk: Additional electrical items in the home office can contribute to a slightly higher fire risk.
6. Improper Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Setup: Incorrect workstation setup can lead to postural issues, eye strain, and other ailments.
Prioritising Workstation Setup
In the context of hybrid work, where employees may have multiple designated workspaces, ensuring proper workstation setup is paramount. For organisations employing hotdesking as part of their hybrid approach, it's essential to consider whether employees have the necessary equipment in each location. Additionally, have they received adequate training and instructions on setting up and using workstations correctly? If not, providing a refresher on DSE might be in order.
The Importance of Training and Support
In addition to providing the right equipment, employers should offer training and support for remote workers. This includes guidance on ergonomics, time management, and establishing boundaries between work and personal life. Additionally, mental health resources and avenues for seeking help should be readily available to all employees, regardless of their work location.
As hybrid work becomes the norm, organisations must recognise the health and safety implications of this new way of working. The duty of care extends beyond the traditional office space to encompass employees' homes. Employers must be proactive in identifying and mitigating potential hazards, providing necessary equipment, and offering support for mental and physical well-being.
By prioritising health and safety in the hybrid work model, organisations can create a work environment that fosters productivity, satisfaction, and overall employee well-being. It is through these measures that the promise of a flexible, hybrid work future can be realised without compromising the health and safety of the workforce.