It’s going to be a challenge for us all in the coming months as more and more of need to set up home working in response to COVID-19. Here are some useful tips that might make it more productive and safer.
1. REMEMBER YOUR LEGAL DUTIES
Remember Health and Safety laws still apply to home workers. Home workers are typically lone workers with no direct supervision or anyone to help them if things go wrong. If you are working from home your employer must still ensure you are safe, and hazards and risks are assessed, and where reasonably practicable, action is taken to reduce risk. Home working hazards to be considered will include:
- Insurance – check employers and public liability insurance covers your home working.
- Display screen assessments – make sure you have carried out a DSE assessment and addressed DSE recommendations.
- Working environment – make sure your home is safe for the activities you are being asked to perform. Consider if electrical equipment has been PAT tested, or are you using hazardous substances that require a COSHH assessment. Are you carrying out manual handling moving heavy object in and out of your house?
- Stress and isolation – If contact is poor, home workers may feel disconnected, isolated or abandoned. This can affect stress levels and mental health. Stay in touch with colleagues and you employer should be making efforts to communicate with you regularly.
2. GROUND RULES
Set some ground rules with family, friends and pets. Working from home can upset the family apple cart. Speak to your family and friends and explain what you will be doing, for how long and what you need from them. This can be the biggest hurdle in working from home and their cooperation is vital.
3. DESIGNATED WORKSPACE
Have a designated workspace if you can. Homes come in all shapes and sizes. If you can, set up have dedicated room or area for home working. Also, if you can, use a separate computer for work and personal use. It’s more secure for the employer, and it lets you do all your work activities in private. But not everyone has a separate office in their home and keeping two machines isn’t always realistic. Instead, dedicate a desk and some peripherals only for work use. Set a password on your computer and when you leave it lock it, or some well intentioned person may accidentally delete your work when shopping on eBay.
4. HAVE STRUCTURE
Structure your day around normal working hours where possible. Set a schedule and stick to it. Have a clear timetable for when to work and when to call it a day. Working remotely can also mean extending your day or starting early to accommodate someone else’s hours. Have a morning and end of day routine. It helps to get up, get ready and get going as if you were leaving the house. This sets you up for the day. Avoid working in the P-jays or leaving breakfast TV on. Your morning routine should end with you starting work. Just as you should start your day with a routine, you should end with a routine that signals the close of the workday. It might be signing off with business colleagues on apps or shutting down your computer and putting work items away. Whatever the routine, do it consistently to mark the end of working hours.
Keep in contact with colleagues and remember office socialising doesn’t have to stop with home working. Loneliness and isolation and a feeling of disconnect are common problems when working from home. Companies with a remote work culture usually offer ways to socialise. For example, they might have chat channels where remote employees can talk about common interests or concerns for people in the same situation. It’s important to figure out how much interaction you need to feel connected and included. Working remotely means it’s easy to be overlooked. Communicate often and don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Make sure everyone who needs to know is kept informed on what you are doing and when it’s completed.
6. STAY ORGANISED
Organise your day, schedule your breaks. It’s easy to get distracted working from home. Avoid leaving the TV on as it will pull you away from the work you need to do. Try to recreate and office environment. Know your company’s policy on break times and follow it. If you’re self-employed, give yourself adequate time during the day to walk away from the computer screen and phone. A lunch hour and two 15-minute breaks in the morning and afternoon are the standard.
7. PROTECT YOUR WORK
Think about IT security and back up. You may have been issued a work laptop with anti-virus and cloud hosting. Or you may be using the family computer, if you are you may need to look at antivirus and cloud hosting. There are many good free to use antivirus solution and cloud hosting. Search google for free antivirus and have a look at Dropbox and google cloud. These come with around 2 GB of free memory so you can be confident your work won’t get lost if your computer dies.