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What responsibilities do companies have for employees working from home?

M.D. AJ Products (UK) Ltd

For many of us, working from home has become the new normal and, although we hope to get back to the office in the near future, we’re not there just yet. There’s also the big question of what it will look like when we do. It is expected that remote working will become a permanent part of work life in some way for many office-based employees, with companies expected to allow more flexibility and encourage workers to work from home one or two days a week even post pandemic. This past year has given us a taste of the pros and cons of home working. AJ Products looks at what companies should be doing to support staff working remotely to make it easier and more productive.

  1. Legal duty of care

First of all, it’s important for both businesses and employees to understand that an employer has the same legal duty of care for an employee’s health, safety and wellbeing when they are working from home as they do when they are working in the office. This applies whether the employee is based at home permanently or temporarily.

  1. Suitable risk assessment

The business is also responsible for carrying out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of the home working environment to make sure that they have a safe and ergonomic workstation set up. This can be completed by the employee themselves and can take the form of a simple checklist.

  1. The right set up

Businesses should either provide remote workers with the necessary equipment or with a sufficient budget to purchase it themselves. This should include all necessary IT equipment including a laptop, mouse, keyboard and, if requested, separate screen. Depending on the risk assessment and the employee’s individual needs, it may also include a desk, office chair and other furniture for a good home office set up. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to finding the right desk set up (either in the office or at home) but offering a budget that could be put towards an ergonomic chair or standing desk converter can make a significant difference to health and wellbeing.

  1. A healthy and flexible culture

Understanding personal circumstances and demonstrating trust in employees by allowing a flexible work schedule is essential. This includes everything from making allowances for childcare to flexibility on lunch breaks and start/finish times to give more time for exercise. It relies on companies trusting employees to complete their work on time and be productive without expecting them to be contactable at all hours. In fact, empowering employees to set boundaries and take regular breaks can actually boost productivity levels.

  1. Communication is key

How the business communicates with the team makes a big difference to whether or not remote working is successful. This could mean scheduling regular team meetings to ensure better collaboration, sharing tips and tricks on good working from home practices, actively encouraging exercise breaks and more. It also means role modelling the right behaviour: if managers don’t respond to emails out of hours, then employees won’t feel obliged to do so.

For more information on the legal responsibilities business have to employees working remotely, we recommend the HSE and ACAS.

AJ Products is a supplier of workplace furniture and interior solutions that focuses on ways to solve the problem of a sedentary workday. As a member of ukactive, an independent not-for-profit organisation that aims to promote active lifestyles, the company is committed to making workplaces healthier and more active through an innovative and ever-growing range of sit-stand furniture and by raising public awareness of the health risks of prolonged sitting. Find out more at ajproducts.co.uk.

Max Vialou-Clark
M.D. AJ Products (UK) Ltd