Here at iHASCO we have all completed our Health and Safety for Homeworkers course. Like many others around the country, we have temporarily moved out of our office and set up to work from home. Those that are regular homeworkers have already developed good working practices at home but for those of us used to office surroundings it can take a little longer to get used to.
On top of that, anyone else you share a home with may also be homeworking, so if like many of us you don’t have a home of considerable size with dedicated office space it is undoubtedly going to be a challenge setting up a comfortable work environment. With schools being closed across the UK, it also means we will be sharing our home office with ‘little workers’ too.
We found ourselves taking on lots of good advice from our course but given the current situation in the UK, it is sensible to recognise that at times you must be adaptable but not to the detriment of your health and safety.
Some guidance from our iHASCO Health and Safety for Homeworkers course is:
“If you share your home with others, home working will not only affect you, it will affect them too. It’s important that home working is a good fit for all members of the household. If they are in the home whilst you are working, they will have to understand that you are “at work”, while still being physically present. Although dependants may be present in your home whilst you are working, homeworking is not a substitute for suitable care arrangements. It’s your responsibility to ensure arrangements are in place for any dependants to be looked after whilst you are working. For example, if someone has small children and works at home, they won’t be able to concentrate on work and, at the same time, make sure their children stay out of danger. It’s a matter of the children’s health and safety.”
How to balance homeworking and child care
Currently, government advice is to not let grandparents look after your children. So what do you do if you are meant to work at home whilst your children are also at home? Firstly the ages of your children need to be taken into consideration. Toddlers and young children need constant supervision. We would recommend that you have an open and honest conversation with your employer if you feel your work may be impacted. For example, you could come to an arrangement to reduce your hours or have more flexibility, such as completing work when your toddler is napping or catching up for a couple of hours in the evening. If your children are of school age it will be a little more practical. Your children’s schools will have a home learning programme for children to follow so you can all sit down to work together. It makes sense to schedule regular breaks and time to fix snacks, get some fresh air and develop a routine that allows you to all get some quality work completed but these may be different from your usual working hours so you should get an agreement with your manager. Again this is the time to be honest with your employer and point out any difficulties you are having with completing your work. You may be able to use some holiday or come to an arrangement to catch up on hours at a later date. It will depend on your role and company’s policies. If your spouse is also homeworking you could share the care of your children to enable you to take it in turns to lock yourself away and get on with some work without interruptions!
Health and Safety for Homeworkers - overcoming issues
There are a number of considerations for home working but many people have been thrown into it and have had to come up with makeshift arrangements. In some circumstances the ideal option isn’t feasible so what should you do?
I don’t have an office space:
Wherever you are working, whether it’s at the kitchen table or a desk set up in your conservatory, ensure your setup is appropriate to avoid musculoskeletal problems. You can ask your employer for guidance if you are concerned something isn’t right.
I can’t shut myself away:
Shutting yourself away from the rest of the family is unlikely to be feasible at this present time but having discussions with your household about set work times or important tasks you need to complete will help everyone understand and be patient. You should also take regular breaks where possible and get some fresh air, even if you just stand out on your doorstep!
The house is full of people and is untidy:
If you have a full house it is likely to be a little crazy at times. It is still important to ensure there are no trip hazards, particularly on stairs, and the whole family should be more conscious of tidying up after themselves for everyone’s safety. Plus for your sanity, it will make good sense to keep areas clean and tidy. Also consider tidying away laptops, cables, paperwork at the end of every day. Be aware of not overloading sockets, particularly when there’s likely to be a range of electrical devices needing to be charged at the same time!
We wish every homeworker all the best in these unusual circumstances but do remember to keep lines of communication open with your employer!
Online Training & resources
The team spends a lot of time putting a course together and ensuring content is spot on with accuracy, detail and best practices, and our online Health and Safety for Homeworkers course is no different. Try it for free and see for yourself.
Other blogs with useful information on homeworking can be accessed below:
- Working from home: Health & Safety and Compliance considerations
- Why working from home shouldn’t be a problem… (for many, but not for all)
- Top 10 tips for those working at home
- Protecting your mental health in uncertain times
- How to set up your home office/workstation correctly
- Best forms of communication when home working