Remote working is here to stay

Working from home has again become the default position for many workers and could continue for another six months.  But not all can. Employers need to ensure safe and sustainable working environments for all their employees.

Many have found working from home very effective because it avoids office distractions and reduces commuting. Working more flexibly can often mean being able to fit work around family responsibilities, especially when children may be sent home from school to isolate at short notice. Such factors can create a happier and more diverse workforce.

For those continuing at home, their physical workspace should be properly equipped, not just with their computer but also a good chair and table. Communicating expectations clearly is important. Staff should take regular breaks and not work excessively long hours.

For some employees, however, working from home can have a negative impact on morale, productivity and overall mental health. A Covid-secure workplace may be the best place for them to be and employers should be able to offer this alternative.

Some employees could work partly at home and partly in the workplace. Employers need to have a fair procedure for determining which employees work where and when, considering employees’ personal concerns and circumstances as well as business needs. Consultation with staff is essential.

It’s clear the pandemic has triggered an increase in workplace stress, anxiety and depression, whether directly from fear of the disease, or indirectly, because of changes to ways of working, isolation or concerns about money and job security.

Employers have a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of their workforce, so far as reasonably possible, including employees’ mental health and wellbeing. Staff should feel safe to discuss such concerns without fear of stigma within an effective framework of policies and systems to identify and manage mental health issues.