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What does “working safely from home” mean?

This article examines what it means to work safely from home for organizations that acted quickly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over 70% of OHS experts anticipate that some of their employees will continue to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. They must ensure that these employees’ health and safety are managed when they operate remotely.

Six issues with employees who work from home

There are six considerations to consider when it comes to allowing your staff to work from home safely.

  • Communication – Having access to and understanding how to use new technology to manage virtual and remote working; a significant increase in meetings to respond to changes in work activities and processes; and the creation of “echo chambers” with the siloing of employees who maintain contact with those who share similar views.

  • Some supervisors are resistant to employees working from home because it is perceived as a “rort” or a “holiday” by those who must remain in the workplace.

  • Employees are reducing their physical activity and increasing their daily screen time; a workload, longer working hours, and more stress and tiredness; and an increasing workload, longer working hours, and more stress and weariness.

  • Psychological Health: Some people feel isolated from their family, peers, and social network, while others have trouble distinguishing between “work” and “home” time.

  • Employees’ ability to complete tasks under the new working arrangements may be hampered by their home environment; some organizations may be unable to provide “suitable duties” for employees upon their return to work, and supervisors may find it difficult to be involved in day-to-day work when managing employees remotely.

  • Risk Management: Some people struggle to keep up with current and emerging challenges while maintaining an effective risk management strategy.

Psychological risk: lessons learned

Employee psychological risk is critical to working from home safely. The research identifies eight areas to think about:

  1. It’s not a smart idea to treat your home-based staff as though they’re all in the same boat. When designing policies and processes and implementing working from home arrangements, it would be beneficial if you took into account their age, lifestyle, life priorities, physical, psychological, mental, and cognitive profiles.

  1. Work-from-home policies and practices should be flexible to accommodate the diversity of your employees, their home settings and obligations, as well as the needs of the job. When scheduling meetings and deadlines, try to remain flexible.

  1. It would be beneficial if you allowed your staff to take responsibility for their own health and safety when working from home. As an employer, you should help people create a healthy and safe working environment by enabling and supporting them.

  1. Include information that promotes an understanding of the challenges that may be involved with safely working from home, the employee’s health, and integration with other elements of their life by taking a holistic approach. Consider ways of dealing with these challenges, such as discussing appropriate breaks and drawing lines between work, home, and leisure activities.

  1. Your employees must be able to identify with their work and have a sense of self-identity, social connectedness, and workgroup belonging.

  2. It’s critical to support your leaders if you want to work from home safely. It would be preferable if you urged managers to support and value their employees, as well as the potential challenges that working from home may bring. It’s possible that you’ll need to reevaluate your task design as well as your performance evaluation criteria.

  3. You should urge your management to trust employees who work from home by providing them with assistance and mentoring. They may need to adapt their management style, which may have been primarily face-to-face prior to COVID-19. Your managers must get to know each of your employees as individuals in order to accommodate their unique demands and working styles.

  4. Using a risk management approach to establish safe work practices for employees who work from home is beneficial. Workers, managers, and OHS specialists must collaborate to determine the needs and conditions that enable safe and healthy work.

Take a whole-body approach to working from home safely

Working from home in a safe, healthy, and productive manner entails more than simply doing the same work in a new place. It necessitates a particular perspective when it comes to work design.

It can have serious physical and psychological health consequences if it is not tailored to fulfill the demands of the particular employee. As a result, work arrangements for working from home safely should include:

  • Job design that empowers your staff to take ownership of their work and the safety safeguards in place.

  • Employee communications that build a sense of belonging

  • The organization’s and individual managers’ leadership should be facilitating rather than controlling.

  • Managerial and employee trust is influenced by the kind and style of communication and leadership.

  • Risk management that takes into account the entire context of risk, not just the work itself, but also the family, community, and societal context in which it occurs.