A few years ago, working from home was reserved for the few but with lockdown forcing this upon most of us, there has been a sea-change in our working environments. A significant number of people continue to work from home, and as the dust settles on the pandemic at least, now is a good time for employers to take stock of their responsibilities as far as home workers are concerned. So, what are the main areas that Employers need to consider to ensure that they and their employees can continue to operate safely and effectively?
One of the first things to consider is whether you are supplying equipment such as laptops and telephones to enable homeworking or if you are asking employees to use their own equipment.
If you are supplying the equipment you should be aware that it will often not be possible for the employee to extend their household insurance to cover this equipment as it does not belong to them. You should therefore speak to your Insurer/Insurance Broker to ask them to extend your policy to cover equipment whilst used and stored in employees’ homes. You should also advise them if the equipment will solely be used in the employee’s home or if on occasion it may be taken to another location for a meeting.
If you are asking employees to use their own equipment it is vital that you satisfy yourself that the equipment has a level of security commensurate with the information that will be stored on the device. Do they have up to date firewalls and virus protection? Are patches uploaded as soon as they are available? Where confidential or personal information is stored will they be able to send and receive encrypted information?
In both circumstances, please speak to your Insurer/Insurance Broker for guidance. If your organisation has Cyber Insurance in place as there will also often be specific IT security requirements for portable equipment.
As an employer, you continue to have health and safety obligations to your employees even when they are working from home. You need to ensure that the employee can set up an adequate workstation. To do this, you may wish to consider whether it is appropriate to carry out a physical inspection or alternatively consider issuing Display Screen Equipment questionnaires or do a telephone risk assessment to highlight any issues which can then be addressed.
People who are unused to working from home may also miss the work environment feeling isolated. Consider what you can do to promote interaction and avoid feelings of loneliness or anxiety. Encourage staff to interact with each other on a day-to-day basis – video calling, if available, is a good tool for this or you may wish to establish a buddy system where people check in on one another. (This is also a great way of building team morale)
Set up regular team calls which can be used to discuss any ongoing work issues or be used purely for social interaction to keep those feelings of being part of a team.
The temptation to work excessive hours and associated burn out also needs to be avoided. If using company equipment can you monitor how long someone is logged on to the system? If employees are using their own equipment are you receiving emails sent outside normal operating hours?
By taking some relatively simple steps you can ensure that your workforce stays engaged and productive, remaining one of your biggest assets whether premises based or working remotely. As ever the team at Keegan & Pennykid would be delighted to assist with any queries or requests that you may have.