Amidst the current COVID-19 situation, a large proportion of workplaces are now requiring their staff to work from home in the best interest of theirs and others health and safety. For some employers remote working is not foreign territory however, there are a number of risks associated with working from home that business owners must consider during this time.
Although Working from Home (WFH) is a great option for flexibility and in the current climate, it is important to note that it is not an automatic employee entitlement and may not be suitable in all cases. Before instructing an employee to work from home, it’s important to consider the positions suitability for remote working as well as the individual themselves. Not all employees have the ability to work as effectively in an autonomous environment, particularly junior employees who lack the experience to perform their role without supervision.
For businesses who have requested their staff to work from home until further notice they will need to determine if the arrangement will be on a part time or full time basis. In addition, any working from home arrangements should be agreed in writing and signed by both the employer and the employee to ensure both parties are aware of all facets of the arrangement. Workplace Partners ‘Working from Home Policy’ includes an agreement template that employers can adopt during this time.
Workplace Health and Safety
Ensuring an employee has a designated workspace in order to effectively work from home is the responsibility of the employer to approve. Identifying that the space is safe and at a bare minimum has a desk, office chair, adequate lighting, ample space, adequate power points, etc.
In addition, working from home brings its own array of workplace health and safety risks as an employer has an obligation to ensure the employees designated workspace meets the necessary health and safety requirements. In this current climate it’s difficult and not necessarily practical for employers to attend an employees home to conduct a safety audit, therefore an employee self-audit is recommended. Our Working from Home Policy includes an employee self-audit safety checklist which should at minimum be evidenced along with the employee providing the employer with a photo of the designated workspace.
Conditions of Working from Home
Working from home policies should include conditions of working from home to ensure the employee is aware of their responsibilities. One of the biggest issues employers have with allowing staff to work from home is accountability and communication as it is much more difficult to ensure staff are operating as expected when they are not physically on the business premises.
Our Working from Home Policy includes some examples of conditions that may be applicable to your business to streamline communication and create a clear expectation of employees.
Similarly, another blurred line can occur around family and personal responsibility whilst working from home, particularly during a time where parents may have their children home from school. If an employee is required to attend to family or personal responsibilities during working hours they should apply for the appropriate leave and notify the employer.
If an employee is required to take property of the business home in order to fulfill their role remotely it is important that insurance is considered. In addition, any property of the employees that enables them to complete their role should be appropriately covered by home and contents insurance. As an employer, you are able to request that employees provide a copy of their current policy for approval as a condition of working from home.
On a final note, working from home arrangements can result in an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ situation which could negatively affect your workplace culture and productivity. It’s important that employers’ take a structured approach to building one-on-one relationships, setting common group meeting times, and continue to focus the team on their goals and the vision of the business.
If you have any questions relating to your employer obligations and duties in relation to working from home, or other workplace relations matters, contact our team today.