Currently, people are permitted to go to work only if they “cannot reasonably work from home”. The government guidance is that only public sector employees in essential services and those working in construction, manufacturing and critical national infrastructure should be going into the physical workplace…and even in those cases, it is only if they cannot work from home.
Employers who fail to make reasonable efforts to accommodate homeworking are at risk of enforcement action and penalties by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as well as claims from employees that they have failed to comply with their obligations under the relevant Health and Safety legislation.
Employers have the same duty of care and Health & Safety obligations to employees working from home as they do to employees in the workplace. Whilst the HSE has stated that temporary homeworking in response to the pandemic doesn’t require the employer to carry out a complete DSE home workstation assessment, it’s certainly advisable to make enquiries about your employees’ homeworking conditions.
Keeping in regular contact with employees working from home is vital. Long and unexpected periods of homeworking can have negative effects on your employees’ mental health, especially if they feel isolated. Employers should also provide advice and support to ensure that employees take sufficient breaks and adopt a healthy homeworking routine.
Here at EML, we’ve already had those discussions with each member of the team on an individual basis around how a return to the office will look. We were already aware that the majority favoured a greater degree of homeworking than they had before remote working was thrust upon us by the first lockdown in March. The main reasons for this were a better work/life balance and a reduction of their weekly commute.
Whilst we were accepting of these benefits and the fact that all roles could be performed remotely from a technical perspective, we were adamant that there needed to be a balance and were firmly of the view that working together in the physical workplace is essential for maintaining personal wellbeing, collaboration, a team ethic, morale, motivation, consistently high levels of customer service and ultimately, the culture we’ve spent over 30 years developing. With this in mind, we will be introducing a hybrid model. When looking at amending working arrangements, we considered the following factors:
- Office seating arrangements due to the likely need for some social distancing for the long term
- Individual circumstances relating to commuting distance and home-working set-up/facilities
- Individual preferences as to the degree of home-working desired
When the time is right, i.e. when the current restrictions have eased to the extent that a return to the office is permissible, we’ll be implementing the revised working patterns on a 6-month trial basis initially. Their effectiveness will then be subject to regular review during that period.
We have stipulated the need for flexibility and stressed that individuals may be required to come into the office on alternative or additional days as required, such as to attend meetings.
In the meantime, we have introduced weekly 1-2-1’s that serve a dual purpose of monitoring the personal wellbeing of team members and keeping up-to-date on their workload.
To help employers adjust to the likely need for more flexibility and remote working options, EML has produced a Homeworking Toolkit which includes a self-complete workstation assessment and detailed guidance for employers and employees. For further details please call 01942 727200 or email us at email@example.com.