Companies need to ensure employees' home workspaces meet compliance standards.
The need for home-working in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic has driven companies to reassess their business goals. For instance, insurance risk and commercial law specialist BLM plans to cut almost 90 jobs as it accelerates its digital strategy, and close two UK offices in a move towards full-time remote working for some staff.
Accounting firm PwC and asset management company Schroeders have also announced that employees will be able to work from home after the Covid crisis.
The government has published various remote working guidance documents to help businesses adapt. So what have companies been doing to enable workers to work effectively and safely at home in accordance with compliance?
David Hylton at best practice benchmarking firm Sitemark emphasised the need for a physical assessment when preparing a home space into workplace. He told Facilitate: “Employers should send a working from home wellness assessment to any member of staff that will be working from home, even just one day per week. The assessment should cover furniture, IT set-up, social activity, productivity and wellness. Managers can use these assessments to tailor their approach to each individual team member, helping to make them comfortable and productive.”
Kelly Howell, HR director at Atalian Servest said: “Our primary aim was to ensure that our people were equipped with the tools they needed to continue to work effectively in a safe and secure environment outside of the office.” The company has done so with assessing and identifying any risks posed by remote working.
According to Howell, these were from “a people perspective (ensuring health and safety requirements were met and that the mental health and individual wellbeing implications of the change were considered) and from a data protection and information security perspective”.
The company had already shared a working from home guide to all staff before lockdown. Howell said the guide, and the company’s associated homeworking policy, focused on helping colleagues set up a safe and productive working environment in their homes and stressed the importance of staying connected.
The guide included key information and links to online training about how to collaborate remotely by using tools such as Microsoft Teams, and raises awareness of issues such as screen fatigue and the importance of taking regular physical breaks.
At property management company Anabas, HR manager Gemma Rigby said “mental health concerns aren’t so obvious when people are working remotely” so the company offered a 24/7 helpline as well as online counselling.
Rigby added that companies “need to work harder” to ensure the physical and mental wellbeing of their staff.
Similarly, an Interserve spokesman said the firm is supporting colleagues to work from home with a range of methods such as managers regularly keeping in touch with colleagues and a system called ‘Thrive’ to support colleagues’ health and wellbeing.
However, Angela Love, director at Active Workplace Solutions, said there should be a focus on addressing “the desperate need of getting people back into the workplace before there is no workplace”.
She added: “You can’t go a day without seeing another well-established large organisation committing to remote working for good. Barclays and PwC are just two of the most recent names. What impact is this going to have on our already deserted cities and towns, which are the lifeblood of positive fiscal performance? This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency and getting people back to work, as long as it’s safe, is the only way to start.”