Working from home is a convenient way to work and stay safe during a pandemic. But remote work has its own health and safety challenges.
If you have employees working from home, it is important that you create a remote work policy for your business. Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, it is the employer's duty to take all reasonable precautions for the health and safety of employees.
Here are some tips on helping your employees set up a safe home office and healthy work routine.
Setting up the home office
The right work environment
Set up your workspace in a quiet area of your house. Make sure it is away from distractions such as the TV. It should be well-lit, clean and clutter free. There should be no sharp or heavy objects, and/or loose electrical cords lying around. This will reduce risk of common household injuries.
Request your family members or housemates to not disturb you at work unless it is urgent.
The right work equipment
With a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic expected in the coming months, you may be working from home for a while. It is important that your work equipment, such as your desk and chair, is sturdy and durable. Your employer may provide ergonomic equipment, if needed.
- Make sure your workstation is properly adjusted and well-lit. Set it up beside a source of light, if possible. The window or source of light should not be in front or behind you. Place the monitor/laptop screen at an arm’s length.
- The top of your monitor or laptop screen should be at your eye level. If it is not, raise your monitor/laptop screen to your eye level by stacking books or using cardboard boxes.
- Use both a keyboard and a mouse. Place them in a manner that you can easily reach them with your elbows at 90 degrees and wrists straight.
- If your chair is not adjustable, fold towels or use cushions to support your back. Do not work from your bed or a couch as this would be terrible for your posture. It may cause neck and back muscle strain over time.
Best practices for physical and mental well-being
Stick to a routine
Setting a fixed routine as you work from home is good for your physical and mental health as well as your productivity. Wake up at a fixed time. Have breakfast and get ready for work. Avoid overworking yourself by continuing to work beyond your fixed work hours.
Remember to take short breaks
Repetitive motions and sitting for long hours in the same position can increase risk of musculoskeletal injuries. Take frequent breaks. Walk to the kitchen and prepare yourself a snack. Get up and stretch. Enjoy the view from your yard or balcony. Chat with your family or housemates. If you need to, set reminders on your phone to take very short breaks through the day.
Set achievable goals
Make a list of things to do every day. Meet your daily or weekly work deadlines and personal well-being targets. Reward yourself for your achievements, however small they may be.
Set up a check-in schedule with your employer or co-worker, especially if you live and work alone. Make sure you are clear on deadlines and project briefs. Communicate any issues you may be facing to your employer.
Take care of yourself
Go for a walk or get some sort of exercise before you start the day. If you live alone, make sure you eat healthy. Plan and prepare your meals in advance. Do not fall into the habit of skipping meals or eating junk food to make up for poor time management. Get at least 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep every day.
Get help if you need it
To be living through a pandemic is tough even if you are healthy and safe. It is normal to feel distressed due to social isolation and the complete disruption of our normal routines. Be aware of the mental health resources available to you through your employer and your government. Make use of those resources if you need to.
Keep yourself updated on the latest developments and safety measures related to the pandemic. But do so in moderation. Do not believe everything you read on the Internet. Get your information from credible sources such as the Government of Canada website or the World Health Organization. Follow the health and safety measures at home and when you step out.
Want to know your employer obligations surrounding COVID-19 health and safety?