Working from home?  How to keep your team (and business) safe!

30 July 2020
Posted by Sebastian Marcu

Flexible employment is the way of the future, and can give your business a competitive edge. Recent statistics have shown that over two thirds of workers believe they are more productive when working for home, and one in three believe they are less stressed.

As a business owner, here are the top three things you should know about remote working arrangements:

1. Workplace health and safety laws apply!

You will still have a duty of care as an employer to ensure the physical and mental wellbeing of your employees if they are working from home.

Therefore, you should:

– Clearly and comprehensively define your ‘work from home’ processes;

– Provide clear guidance on how to set up a safe home working environment, including training on sound ergonomic practices;

– Perform regular audits of employees’ workspaces to identify potential hazards and assess changes in circumstances;

– Engage with employees about their mental health, and assess the effects of psychosocial hazards in consultation with them. Psychosocial hazards can include decreased support from managers and peers, blurred lines between home and work life, fatigue, changes in workload, familial relationship issues and sub-standard home office environments; and

– Conduct regular safety audits to ensure ongoing compliance with safety standards (Business Victoria have put together a handy reference here.

You can also arrange a free independent assessment of your employees’ home office environments via the Victorian WorkCover Authority.

2. Never underestimate the power of routine.

You should strongly consider setting regular (if not daily) meetings with each employee to check in, provide support and discuss any concerns they have. This should take place in addition to regular workspace audits and mental health assessments.

It is helpful to set regular work hours, and if you can’t, be aware of the risks associated with irregular work schedules. Besides presenting a few psychosocial hazards such as blurring the line between work and home life,  irregular work hours could cause complications if an employee is injured at home. If regular hours are not possible in your industry, consider limiting them to a specific period of time during which they can be completed, such as from 7am to 7pm. That way it is clear that things happening outside of these hours, including injuries, are not in the course of their employment.

3.  Develop a work from home policy

We recommend developing a Work From Home (WFH) policy document not only to keep your employees safe and well-informed but to ensure that you are you meeting your legal obligations. Besides clearly documenting workplace safety checks that apply, it should also specify procedures for notifying you of injuries or emergencies, information on employee rights, timesheet procedures, assessment intervals and communication expectations.

We’d love to help you develop a tailored WFH policy for your business. Get in touch with us at hello@studiolegal.com.au or by calling the office on 03 9521 2128.  We currently have a special rate for all businesses in Melbourne or on JobKeeper!!

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is of a general nature. It does not constitute formal legal advice, and should not be relied on as such. Please see the full disclaimer in our website terms. Please contact Studio Legal if you are seeking advice about a specific legal matter.

Image by rawpixel.com