COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way we live and work. From social distancing to remote working, there are a variety of changes that have been introduced to contain the virus and keep people safe.
Previously, employers believed that remote working would decrease productivity, however, studies show there are a variety of benefits for both the employee and employer.
Although many employees are working from home, employers still have a duty of care to their employees. So what are your responsibilities as an employer when it comes to health and safety in remote work?
Pros and Cons for Employers
Employers have many fears when it comes to remote working. This can include managing different schedules or simply not trusting their employees to do their work while unsupervised.
However, by investing in the latest technology, employers can rest assured that their teams will be able to collaborate effectively and maintain productivity while working remotely.
Because of the pandemic, many employers have had to embrace remote working and have seen the benefits as a result.
No Employees Commuting
Although this may seem like only a benefit for employees, it actually has a variety of pros for employers. For example, pre-COVID, 45% of people spent over an hour commuting a day. Whether it’s on a train, bus or in their own car, it takes a toll on their life, eating into family time or the time they could spend enjoying hobbies.
When people work from home, they gain this time back, easing the daily stress they would usually face and improving their quality of life. In fact, 60% of homeworkers report feeling happier since working from home.
Studies have also shown that remote working reduces sick days from 2.6 days per year to 2.4 days per year. This is most likely because employees have more flexibility and are able to get more sleep, maintain a greater work-life balance and ultimately spend more time on their general wellbeing.
Ensuring employees are happy is key to retention and recruitment. With remote working increasing employees’ overall wellbeing, it’s better for business.
Lower Carbon Footprint
As mentioned previously, office workers spend a lot of time commuting. This has had drastic effects on the environment, with the transport sector in the UK and US being responsible for more greenhouse gases than any other. Globally, it’s responsible for around one-quarter of CO2 emissions.
With more people working from home now than ever before, we’re already seeing a dramatic decrease in harmful emissions. In fact, some UK cities saw a 60% drop in nitrogen dioxide levels in the first two weeks of lockdown alone.
Not only that but as people are no longer in the office, offices aren’t using water or electricity, plastic cups for water fountains or providing printed handouts as the majority of remote work is strictly digital. Remote working is just one of the many ways businesses can reduce their carbon footprint and effect on the environment.
Bigger Talent Pool
If a business is located in a rural area, it can be really difficult to find the ideal candidate, especially compared to cities where job vacancies usually receive hundreds of applicants. That’s why remote working is ideal for finding the best talent.
Instead of appealing only to individuals who live close to the organisation, employers can have the pick of the best candidates. Remote working is a great benefit to candidates, making the job appeal to a bigger, better talent pool.
Pros and Cons for Employees
Loneliness, distractions, communication problems and technical difficulties are just some of the issues remote workers face. However, as previously mentioned, the lack of commute has delivered a great deal of wellbeing benefits.
More Flexible Time
With no commute, employees have been able to organise their day around their work in a way that suits their needs. Some employees have a one hour journey to work and back five days a week - that’s 10 hours spent purely on a train or bus or in a car.
Remote working has given employees that time back, reducing their working week dramatically. As a result, employees have more time to catch up on sleep which lowers stress levels.
In turn, this is a great benefit to employers - more sleep, less stress equals better productivity levels. But there are still more benefits to no commute.
Whether employees commute by public transport or in their own car, they’re making savings on travel costs. In London, 65% of workers have been able to save money from their commute budgets and have used the extra money to increase savings, pay back debt, pay their mortgage and save for a house deposit.
Plus, if they continue saving at this rate (around £93 a month), Londoners could be saving an impressive £1,112 a year. So what can we expect to see in work environments post-COVID-19?
Health and Safety in Remote Work
Although employees are working from home, the employer’s responsibility for staff health and safety doesn’t stop because they’re no longer in office. To ensure staff health and safety is maintained while working from home, organisations are proactively looking at ways they can improve it.
An initial risk assessment must be carried out, although this can be done by the employee. To ensure employees are safe and can work effectively, a variety of requirements must be met. Things to consider are:
- Is the seating and layout of the employee’s computer workstation correct?
- Has electrical equipment been tested and certified?
- Are extension leads and cables for computers and printers safe?
- Is there adequate lighting levels, ventilation and room temperature?
To ensure you’re meeting your duties as an employer, we’ve created the Excel at Remote Working Health and Safety course.
Gain a Firm Understanding of Remote Working Health and Safety
Our Excel at Remote Working Health and Safety course contains the techniques you need to virtually ensure your employees’ health and safety at home. From carrying out a work from home risk assessment to learning how to remotely identify and reduce risks, our courses provide you with an interactive, engaging learning environment.