Assessing current working practices and H&S challenges arisingSimon Mayberry
The way in which we work changed massively over a year ago and has led to a change in mindset both on the part of employers and employees. A year of homeworking for a large proportion of the country has had advantages and disadvantages. Certainly many employees report positive developments in their work/life balance, caused in large part by time saved not commuting, which in turn has allowed people to spend more time on self-care or with their families (where permitted!). From an employer’s perspective, many have had to pivot and evolve their businesses, finding new revenue streams and ways of working as a result. A move away from the overheads of rent and utilities in respect of office space should see leaner organisations as a result. Necessity is the mother of invention. However, both for employers and employees the new picture may not be entirely positive.
From an employee’s perspective, those used to team working have seen a huge change in the support immediately available to them. Anecdotally, there are many stories of the isolation of home working and the impact of this on employee mental health. Employers are well-advised to make sure that they take steps to prevent this, perhaps by an increased frequency of one-to-ones, support calls or regular team huddles. Employers should also be mindful of the impact of homeworking on their employees’ physical health as well as there is also anecdotal evidence of a drop in physical activity from those who are working from home. Suddenly not having to walk to the station or for lunch has a marked impact on daily steps!
The challenges for employers are centred on taking proactive steps to avoid the issues outlined above and being mindful of the preferences of individual employees. Health and safety rules in the UK apply as much to home workers as they do to those who have not left (or have returned to) the workplace. Employers should guard against forgetting about home workers – out of site should not equal out of mind. There are countless ways of increasing engagement with employees who are working from home and employers who take time to be proactive are reaping the benefits. Regular team contact not only helps to increase positivity and reduce isolation, but it also helps to recreate some of the synergies which we take for granted when working together in the office.
In counteracting the negative impacts of homeworking, proactivity and imagination are key. Employers will be rewarded for taking time and making effort to ensure that their people are not just surviving but thriving from home.