Peak productivity: Ensure your remote workers have a suitable home office

Noel Collins - Health and Safety Team Leader

January 18 2022

Last updated: January 18th, 2022

Back in early 2021, a survey revealed that 77% of remote workers were unhappy with their home workstation. This was largely because only one in five had a dedicated workspace, with many working from the dining table and even the garden shed.

Situations like this don’t bode well for employers. That’s because they’re responsible, by law, for the health and safety of their employees, including employees who work from home. Not only that, with no proper place to work, employee productivity will suffer.

So, what can you do to improve your employee’s home office? And is there anything you can do to prevent a dip in productivity?

Identifying and addressing health & safety risks

Health and safety legislation in Ireland requires you to ensure the safety of your employees as far as is reasonably practicable while they’re at work. You are therefore obliged to do what you can to prevent any injuries or ill-health that might reasonably arise while employees work from home.  

If you haven’t already done so, assess the safety of the workstations that employees are using in their homes. This will minimise the risk of injury and ensure that you comply with health & safety legislation. It will also ensure you have evidence if you ever need to defend a personal injury claim.

Relevant laws also require you to carry out a health & safety risk assessment to identify hazards and risks in the workplace. And yes, you guessed it, that includes a remote worker’s workstation. This process should include feedback from the employee about their home office.

Some questions to consider as part of this process include:

  • Are there particular hazards in the home, e.g., cables or other trip hazards?
  • Does the workstation have a suitable chair, desk, and screen?
  • Is the room adequately ventilated and bright enough to complete the type of work being carried out?

The risk assessment must also cover any particular needs vulnerable staff have. Older workers, pregnant workers, and workers with underlying medical conditions must be carefully considered. Employees who live alone may need help with minimising lone worker risks.

Remote workers have a duty to protect their own safety while at work. The legislation requires employees to take reasonable care to protect their own health and safety and not to engage in behaviour that will endanger themselves or others. To remind them of these duties, issue or reissue a health & safety policy.


Impact of office design on employee productivity

It’s no big secret that motivated employees are more productive.

When it comes to remote workers, it’s important to remember that they don’t work in an actual office environment. That means, among other things, less interaction with colleagues and no commute to break up the day.

The knock-on effect of such a great change or not quite feeling like they’re in work is that productivity levels begin to dip. This is aided by working from somewhere an employee doesn’t feel they should be working, such as the dining room table.

As an employer, you can help these employees. If budgets allow, you can assess what home office furniture you can provide to your remote workers. This doesn’t need to be a major undertaking; often an adjustable laptop table or ergonomic home office chair will do. To further help remote workers, consider daily or weekly team catch-ups where employees can chat among themselves.

When it comes to mental health, you need to be there for your employees. Of course, some staff may not feel comfortable coming to you, but that’s where an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) can help. With an EAP, employees receive the help they need and have access to:

  • A 24/7 helpline
  • In-person counselling
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions
  • Telephone, email and live chat counselling

Download the health & safety checklist for employees working from home

You can also download our remote working health & safety checklist which includes advice on essential factors such as:

  • Communication: Does the employee have a person to contact about health & safety matters that arise while working from home?
  • Employee health: Are eyesight tests provided as needed?
  • The workstation: Does the employee have a dedicated room to work in?

And much more...

Download the free remote working health & safety checklist today. 

Need our advice on remote working?

For instant advice on all your remote working questions, speak to a health & safety expert now on 0818 923 923.

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