1.Creating the right space at home
Not the kitchen table, sofa or bed. Asking employees to sit at the kitchen table or on a sofa or worse still their on a bed is not the way to create a safe working space at home. Are they sharing a table/desk with others at home? Are they in an area or room exposed to noise, distractions, animals or small children? Have they sufficient room for their files and papers and even a printer if they need one?
Employees need their own space for working from home and ideally a small table even if it is a corner in a spare bedroom where they they can work in peace. They should not have to put their computer away so the family can eat or go to bed. Lighting and houskeeping need to be considered here too.
2.Best computer set up for safety and comfort
Ideally it should not be a laptop. Expecting someone to operate for 8+ hours per day on a laptop is not just ergonomically damaging, it is also illegal without some modifications. Laptops were never designed to replace desktops but that is what they have done and it is fundamentally wrong. Laptops used on their own they force the employee to sit in an unergonomic position with their head bent t forward and their hands in an awkward position, leading to pain and discomfort.
If they must use a laptop for working from home then you should supply one of the following:
(a) a plinth to put the laptop on so the screen is at the right height with a separate keyboard and mouse to plug into the laptop OR
(b) a “docking station” which connects the laptop with a stand- alone separate screen, keyboard and mouse, so the laptop is still operating as the main computer system
This will allow the employee to set up their workstation with the screen at the right height and distance, the keyboard in front of the screen and the mouse beside the keyboard. This will then comply with Display Screen Regulations 2007. If they had a desktop in the office, let them take it home and then ensure it is properly set up for them.
3.Are we all sitting comfortably?
If you buy a cheap chair then you get a cheap chair. The chair that your employee sits on is as important as the computer they use. Sitting on a bed, a sofa or even a kitchen chair is not acceptable for working from home as their back will not be fully supported. If they develop back problems you could be liable.
Any chair they sit on should be adjustable at the seat and the back, give good lumbar support, be stable and comfortable, should swivel and ideally have 5 castors. It does not have to be black executive leather, in fact some chairs that look like that are very poor in terms of support and they do not last.
Train them to adjust the chair correctly in relation to the desk and if they are short, like me, then they may need a footrest too. If they had a good office chair in the office, then let them take it home and then ensure it is adjusted properly for them.
4.Trust, delegation and freedom pays off
Can you trust your employees? Do they need direct supervison? Are you insisting they work from 9am to 5pm rigidly or are you more concerned with the work they produce?
As an employer you need to trust your people. You need to be flexible so that they can carry out other duties, while working from home, such as home schooling, school runs or caring work that has to be done as well as working for you.
The emphasis needs to be on the work to be done, by when, the quality of that work and the support and technolgy that you can provide. Employers that trust their people and allow them the freedom to work when and how they want, get great loyalty and productivity in return.
5.Communication and support
Are you constantly checking up on them? How you communicate, how often you contact them and what you discuss when online with them will clearly tell them if you consider them as people or just units of production.
As their boss, each time you contact them your first question should be “how are you” and/or “how is the family” and not “why is that report not finished? During the pandemic you have no way of knowing if someone in their household is sick, self-isolating, waiting for a test or test results or if someone is in hospital seriously ill. So you need to ask and then show compassion and understanding.
Employees who feel valued work from home better, are more loyal and more productive.
As their employer it is your legal duty to sort out the table, space, computer chair etc. as if they were in the office. Your duties extend to them at home as they are working for you under both your Common Law of duty of care and under statute law.
Treating them like human beings and doing the right things are not difficult and they pay big dividends.