Working from Home Policy: Health and safety checklist
What should be included in your Homeworking Policy and what health and safety considerations should be incorporated?
Due to COVID-19, for some, the traditional office-based workday is a thing of the past and the stressful commute has become a few steps from the bedroom to the desk.
While it appears we will have to learn to live with the presence of COVID, it's unlikely working arrangements will return to the way they were before. So, as a manager, you must adapt to the changing needs of your employees – including the varying risks they face and the resulting health and safety considerations. Part of this involves having a comprehensive Working from Home Policy.
If you’re writing or updating your Working from Home Policy, read on for more information about what should be included and take a look at our helpful checklist for creating a healthy and safe home working environment.
What is a Home Working Policy?
Your Home Working Policy should set your intentions for homeworking within your organisation.
It provides a set of guidelines in terms of what will be expected from homeworkers and the commitments the organisation will make to those who wish to work from home.
The Home Working Policy aims to ensure both your employees and the organisation reap the benefits of a homeworking arrangement and any risks are reduced and appropriately managed.
What should be included in a Work from Home Policy?
Here’s an overview of what should be included in a Working from Home Policy. But take a look at our detailed health and safety checklist underneath to ensure you protect your homeworkers from risk and ensure their wellbeing.
- Who can work from home? You may want to include some examples of roles where homeworking is not appropriate.
- How can colleagues apply to work at home?
- How will you manage homeworking colleagues and ensure they can work effectively?
- What working hours will be expected from homeworkers?
- What equipment will be provided to homeworkers and how do you expect it to be looked after and used?
- What are your data security requirements and what is expected of homeworkers in this regard?
- What expenses are the organisation happy to pay for? e.g. broadband, printing, travel etc.
- How will you keep homeworkers safe from harm and what do you expect them to do to effectively manage their safety and wellbeing?
This last point is one of the most important aspects to consider; Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines state that employers have the same health and safety responsibilities towards homeworkers as do to those who work on-site.
Employees working from home should still comply with the organisation’s Health and Safety Policy. However, it’s useful to spell out some additional health and safety considerations in your Working from Home Policy.
Health and safety checklist for your Homeworker Policy
Mental health and wellbeing considerations
- From a wellbeing perspective, it’s best to create some separation between workspace and living space. However, many people will not have the luxury of a home office. Therefore, suggesting ways in which a work area could be created, with storage to put things away at the end of the working day, may be helpful in some instances.
- It’s easy to skip breaks when working from home so make sure you emphasise the importance to homeworkers of stepping away from their workstation every so often to rest their eyes (to avoid eye strain) and to stretch (to avoid stiffness). HSE suggests that short, regular breaks can be better than longer, less regular breaks. Fresh air during breaks is also a great way to recharge and can aid concentration.
- Homeworkers sometimes find it more difficult to switch off from work at the end of the working day. Therefore, expectations for out of hours work should be set. Downtime shouldn’t be underestimated for its restorative value.
- It’s important to understand that employees who have stresses in their home life, may find it more difficult to leave these issues at the door during working hours if they work at home, and spending a lot of time alone can sometimes cause feelings of isolation. So it’s important to recognise this and ensure regular communication with homeworking teams (see below).
- As a manager, you should specify how and when will you communicate with your team and ensure this is maintained as much as possible. Regular check ins are extremely important.
- If you manage a team of homeworkers, it can be harder to monitor workload and identify stress. You might choose to work with each homeworker to create a Stress Risk Assessment. HSE provides more advice on this here. You can also take a look at this HSE article: Work-related stress and how to manage it.
Safety and security considerations
- It’s important to remember that homeworkers are lone workers. So you should consider the risk implications of this and have an up-to-date Lone Worker Policy. You can download our Lone Worker Risk Assessment Template and Example Lone Worker Policy from our Knowledge Base.
- Do your homeworkers have a means to call for help in an emergency, if there’s no one else around to assist should an incident occur? This is a particularly important consideration for people who live alone and those who may have health conditions. You can read more about this on our Protecting Your Homeworkers page.
- Specify who homeworkers should contact at your organisation in an emergency, how they should report accidents or near misses, and the type of accidents and near misses that should be reported?
- Data security is a key consideration for homeworkers. Do your workers know how to keep your company data safe while working from home? And do they understand how this may differ from an office environment?
IT equipment considerations
Ensuring your homeworkers have the correct IT equipment is vital to them being able to work effectively. However, it can also have an impact on health and wellbeing if it’s not being used correctly or it’s not working as it should. Think about:
- Is the IT equipment provided well maintained and appropriate for the role?
- Do screens have anti-glare?
- If colleagues are working in the few hours before bedtime, do they know how to use night mode to filter out the blue light from screens (which is known to negatively affect sleep)?
- Has the employee received training on where the screens, keyboard and mouse are positioned from an ergonomic point of view - ensuring optimal posture and avoiding any musculoskeletal issues? There is a helpful HSE video on YouTube here.
- Is equipment PAT tested?
- Are homeworkers permitted to use any of their own IT equipment?
- Homeworkers are often completely reliant on their IT equipment; we all know how stressful it can be when our equipment fails. Do your homeworkers know how to access reliable IT support?
Home office considerations
- Does the worker have an appropriate place to work within the home?
- Are desks and chairs at the correct height to avoid injury? Note: the table height should be set so that when the forearms rest on the tabletop and they form a right angle with the upper arms.
- Are equipment cables safely secured in a place where they cannot cause a slip, trip or fall hazard?
- Does the home office environment have appropriate lighting, heating and ventilation? Note: a warm, unventilated room can cause fatigue and reduced concentration.
- Have your homeworkers had a remote desk-based assessment and/or workstation training?
- Does the home have a working smoke and carbon monoxide alarm? And is there an appropriate escape plan in the event of a fire?
*Please note: This is meant as a guide – not an exhaustive list. Every organisation is different and will have different requirements.
More information about managing home workers’ health and safety
You can find more information about managing homeworkers’ health and safety on the HSE website.
You can also take a look at our Knowledge Base document: Health and Safety for Home Workers.