Remote Working

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There are many benefits from working from home for employers and employees. These include increased participation in the workforce, attracting and retaining staff, reducing workspace pressures, reduced commuting and improving work / life balance.

Working from home as an agreed arrangement between employer and employee, needs to be planned for, in order to work well for both. You will find guidance and information below to help you plan for working from home as well as information on responsibilities under safety, health and welfare law. It is important to distinguish between working from home on a temporary basis (e.g. during the COVID-19 pandemic), and, the requirement for a planned approach for an on-going working from home arrangement. You will find guidance and information on both below.

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Note: Workers are required to work from home under current Level 5 restrictions, unless work is an essential health, social care or other essential service or activity that cannot be done from home.

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In this section you will find Guidance on Working from Home for Employers and Employees below, which will assist with planning for on-going agreed remote working arrangements. You will also find FAQs on working from home on a temporary basis in this section. 

  • Guidance on Working from Home for Employers and Employees which will assist with planning for longer term agreed home working arrangements, and
  • FAQ's about working from home on a temporary basis for:
    • Employers
    • Employees

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Guidance on Working from Home for Employers and EmployeesWorking from Home guidance Cover page

This guide will enable employers and employees to understand their responsibilities when planning working from home arrangements, under safety, health and welfare law. Temporary work arrangements may have arisen when working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic but responsibilities remain the same.

At Appendix 1, you will find a Homeworking Risk Assessment / Checklist to help employers (or a competent person acting on their behalf) and their employees to carry out an assessment of the home working environment. It can be downloaded and completed as an online form.  

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    Employer FAQ's for Working from Home on a Temporary Basis

    These frequently asked questions will help employers to understand what is required of them and their employees when working from home, on a temporary basis, for example, during the COVID-19 pandemic or on an ad hoc basis. For guidance on putting on-going working from home arrangements in place, please refer to the Guidance on Working from Home for Employers and Employees.

    In this section:

    1. What are the key duties of employers under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act?

    Employers have specific duties to ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of all employees. These duties include the employee’s workspace where employees are required to work from home.

    Key duties that apply to the work activity and workspace include:

    • managing and conducting all work activities to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare of employees
    • providing safe systems of work that are planned, organised, and maintained
    • assessing risks and implementing appropriate control measures
    • providing safe equipment including personal protective equipment, where necessary
    • providing information, instruction, training and supervision regarding safety and health to employees
    • having plans in place for emergencies.

    2. What duties do employees have under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act?

    If you are an employee working from home, you have a responsibility to take reasonable care of yourself and other people who may be affected by the work you are doing.

    Employees must:

    • cooperate with their employer and follow their instructions
    • protect themselves and others from harm during the course of their work, e.g. take care of any equipment provided and report any defects immediately to the employer
    • report any injury arising from work activity to their employer immediately
    • follow procedures that have been put in place by their employer.

    3. What responsibilities do I have as an employer in relation to home workers?

    Responsibility for health and safety at work rests with the employer whether or not that work is being done at the worker’s home.

    Employers need to consult with their employees to assure themselves:

    • that the employee is aware of any specific risks regarding working from home
    • that the work activity and the temporary workspace are suitable
    • that they provide suitable equipment to enable the work to be done
    • that there is a pre-arranged means of contact.

    4. What equipment must I provide for my employees to enable them to work from home on a temporary basis?

    Equipment already in use in the workplace e.g. laptop, mouse, monitor, appropriate chair, keyboard and headset could be used for temporary home-working. If the employer provides any equipment, it must be in good condition and suitable for the work activity.

    Note: Suitable equipment already available in the employee’s home can be considered for temporary work from there.

    5. What questions do I need to ask employees in relation to their temporary home work space?

    As an employer, you must determine whether the temporary home workspace is suitable for the work you want the employee to do.

    Examples of questions you could ask about the temporary workspace include the following:

    • do you have a suitable space to work from temporarily?
    • can you access the workspace easily and safely?
    • is there adequate light, ventilation and heat to allow you to work comfortably?
    • is there enough space to allow you to work without twisting, bending or sitting/standing awkwardly?
    • is there enough workspace to accommodate the equipment or other materials needed for the activity?
    • is the floor clear and dry, e.g., kept clear of electrical cables or anything else you could trip over / slip on?
    • is the workspace free of clutter?
    • are electrical sockets, plugs and cords in good condition e.g. no charring, exposed wiring or frayed cables?

    6. As an employer what do I need to consider when preparing vulnerable workers, those with disabilities, or sensitive risk workers to temporarily work from home? (e.g. pregnant employees, young persons and those with mobility needs)

    In requesting an employee from a sensitive risk group to work from home, the employer should consider the suitability of the person to the work in the context of their home working space. It is essential that work tasks and working conditions do not adversely affect the health of employees with a disability, pregnant employees, and young workers.

    The employer should consider the following in relation to the employee’s work and workspace:

    • safe access to the workspace
    • the equipment necessary to complete the work
    • sufficient workspace
    • adequate lighting, heat and ventilation to allow comfortable working
    • adequate breaks
    • regular contact
    • emergency contacts and procedures.

    Further information on 'Sensitive Risk Groups' can be found here.

    7. As an employer, must I assess the workstation of an employee if they are working from home on a temporary basis?

    Employers should complete online ergonomic assessments of an employee’s home workstation if they are working from home on a temporary basis, for an extended period of time (e.g. during COVID-19 pandemic). This can be done through video calls or through the use of other technology platforms in order to make sure that the workstation is set up correctly. You will find information on how to carry out a homeworking risk assessment and who is competent to carry out that assessment in the Guidance on Working from Home for Employers and Employees also located above.    

    8. What other general supports and means of communication do I need to put in place for home workers?

    Working from home can result in employees feeling isolated, working longer hours and blurring the lines between work and family life. It is important that employees know they have support at all times during working hours.

    Employers should consider the following:

    • ensuring all contact details for employees are on file and agree means of contact
    • arranging regular updates via phone, web or email with each employee
    • providing employees with emergency contact numbers
    • arranging IT support in the event of technical problems where relevant
    • providing employees with information detailing when it is important for them to contact their employer
    • making sure work is organised in such a way that the employee takes regular breaks and can separate his/her work life and daily life
    • providing employees with regular feedback on their work
    • encouraging employees to maintain contact with colleagues.

    9. Where can I find further information?

    Further information on COVID-19 is available at hsa.ie or you can email your enquiry to wcu@hsa.ie.

    For daily government updates on Covid-19, visit gov.ie.

    Other useful sources of information are:

    • Health Service Executive (HSE) -  Coronavirus Information
    • The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) also provide advice for specific groups and settings including employers, healthcare professionals and education settings available here
    • Work Safely Protocol - Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment 

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    Employee FAQ's for Working from Home on a Temporary Basis

    These frequently asked questions will help employees to understand what they can expect when they are working from home, on a temporary basis, for example, during the COVID-19 pandemic or on an ad hoc basis. For guidance on more formal working from home arrangements being put in place, please refer to the Guidance on Working from Home for Employers and Employees.

    In this section:

    10. What are my responsibilities as an employee, when working from home?

    If you are an employee working from home you have a responsibility to take reasonable care of yourself and other people who may be affected by the work you are doing.

    You must:

    • cooperate with your employer and follow their instructions
    • protect yourself and others from harm during the course of your work, e.g. you must take care of any equipment provided and report defects immediately to your employer
    • report injury to your employer immediately
    • follow procedures that have been put in place by your employer.

    11. How should I prepare for home working on a temporary basis?

    If your employer has requested that you work from home, you will need to consider the following:

    • agree temporary working from home arrangements with your employer, including regular communication with them
    • identify with your employer the work to be done at home
    • identify what equipment you need to set up a safe workspace at home and agree these items with your employer
    • equipment already in use in the workplace e.g. laptop, mouse, monitor, appropriate chair, keyboard and headset could be used for temporary home-working. If the employer provides any equipment, it must be in good condition and suitable for the work activity
    • identify a suitable safe space within your home for home working
    • agree plans and contacts to be used in the event of an emergency.

    Note: Suitable equipment already available in the employee’s home can be considered for temporary work from there.

    12. How can I best set up my temporary work space?

    Identify a suitable space within your home for home working.

    When identifying a suitable space consider:

    • suitable light, heat and ventilation to be able to work comfortably
    • keeping the work space tidy
    • making sure the floor is clean, dry and free from slip, trip and fall hazards
    • suitably located power sockets to avoid trailing cables and overloading of sockets
    • internet access.

    Identify what equipment you need to work temporarily from home and agree these items with the employer. Such equipment may include:

    • a headset if dealing with frequent phone calls
    • IT equipment
    • work phone
    • adequate stationery.

    For more detailed information on good positioning at your workstation use our 'Position Yourself Well' guidance.

    13. Why is it important that I keep in contact with my employer, when working from home?

    It is important that a good system of communication is in place when you are working from home to ensure your safety, health and welfare is not compromised in any way. You also need regular contact for updates on work related information and feedback on the work you have completed. It will also help to prevent you feeling isolated.

    Outside these pre-arranged contacts you should also contact your employer if:

    • you have an accident arising from your work activity
    • the equipment your employer has provided you with is not working properly or requires maintenance
    • you have a specific query or concerns relating to safety, health and welfare.

    14. Where can I find further information?

    Further information on COVID-19 is available at hsa.ie or you can email your enquiry to wcu@hsa.ie.

    For daily government updates on Covid-19, visit gov.ie.

    Other useful sources of information are:

    • Health Service Executive (HSE) -  Coronavirus Information
    • The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) also provide advice for specific groups and settings including employers, healthcare professionals and education settings available here
    • Work Safely Protocol - Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment 

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    Introduction 

    This information below will help employers, employees and assessors in understanding the risks and the management of work-related musculoskeletal health for employees who work at computer workstations in an office / home work environment. It should be considered alongside the Guidance on Working from Home for Employers and Employees and includes:

    • Videos which give useful tips on managing risk related to work at computer workstations
    • Display Screen Equipment (DSE) FAQs which were developed for the “non-remote” work environment but apply equally in a remote working from home setting.

    Guidance

    Position Yourself Well Guidance Graphic

    Videos 

     

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    Introduction

    Working from home in normal times can deliver both benefits and challenges.  While there is potential for greater work / life balance and a more flexible working life, a lack of face-to-face contact with work colleagues can lead to poorer communication, less team working and social isolation.   Not being around the sights and sounds of others affects how we feel, how we work and how we learn. Efforts must be made to put systems in place to nurture a sense of connection between employer and employee, but more crucially amongst co-workers individually and across teams and departments.  

    Many employees continue to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic and have had additional pressures of combining the workplace and home environment, for an extended period.  Employers should accommodate the additional stress on employees during this time when considering the demands on them.

    You will find advice below for employers and employees on what  can be done to manage and control stress through support for employees while working from home, on a temporary basis (for example, during COVID-19) or as part of a planned approach and agreed working from home arrangement.  

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    Employer Role in Managing Stress while Working from home

    Stress from working from home in normal times is different to the stress from working from home now, in COVID-19 times. Where mental health is concerned, the broader environment and global uncertainty cannot be isolated from the individual’s work environment. There are duties on employers to act reasonably, have competent management and supervision and alter the usual methods of communication, feedback and reward to reflect the current altered environmental reality to reduce occupational stress. It’s important that as the ‘where’ of work changes, so too do the ‘how’ and ‘when’ – changing just one element - the place – doesn’t facilitate a good system of work.

    Employers should ensure the system of work, including managers’ behaviours, is adapted to recognise the many challenges of working from home and they should facilitate managers and supervisors so that they:

    • accept that the daily scheduling of work tasks for many employees cannot be as precise as when in the workplace
    • arrange a communication regime in consultation with team members, which recognises the other needs and demands of working from home
    • respect the need for a more supportive, less critical approach from managers in order to address reduced motivation and encourage collaboration
    • have a regular, rather than an ad hoc, pattern of contact, noting especially the start and end of the workweek, and engage in some phone contact rather than merely email.
    • support those with people management responsibilities, with a flexible approach to their work day and week
    • provide practical operational supports from a more senior layer of management or through formal or informal peer supports
    • provide employees with the ability to control aspects of their work methods in order to reduce stress on themselves (and their reports, if they have them)  insofar as is reasonable.

    Occupational health services are more important now than ever before. Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP), Occupational Health and other support systems should be clearly highlighted to employees, where available and contact details provided on a regular basis to all staff.

    Records should be kept, in line with GDPR, of stress-related absences and return-to-work details taken and preserved.

    Monitoring and supportive follow up of stressed employees should focus on facilitating a healthier and safer work environment and system of work, including making reasonable short-term alterations, where required.

    How to Manage Your Stress while Working from home

    • Make regular efforts to stay connected, using a range of media and increased communication skills: use more positive and supportive language and less critical terminology than before and talk to people about both positive and negative feelings.
    • Do things which require your full concentration, which you enjoy for their own sake. It’s important to make the time for your own enjoyment of activities – the benefits linger on so notice your improved energy for the next work task afterwards.
    • Plan and schedule a good range of passive and active, stimulating and relaxing actions into each day: make these new habits and stick to them by scheduling them into specific days/times.

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    Managing behaviour while Working from home during COVID-19

    • Don’t underestimate the benefits of being around people – both in the workplace and otherwise. When this is not possible, mimic some of the social activities you previously enjoyed. Use the phone, the internet and even postcards to keep connected.
    • Assume your behaviour is different due to this new arrangement – be mindful of how you are behaving and how others are reacting to you – is it cooperative and supportive or demanding and intolerant. Set yourself behavioural goals each week and see how you achieve them by reflecting honestly with yourself at the weekends.
    • Distinguish work week from weekends: arrange separate activities at the weekends, to those done during the work week. Avoid letting the days run into replicas of the previous one.
    • Are you controlling your environment as much as you can? Are you just being driven along from day to day, week to week, waiting for ‘the end’? Or are you driving your own agenda, setting goals, deadlines and standards in different aspects of your work and non-work life – goal setting and seeking feedback while attaining goals is crucial. Those who set realistic but demanding goals, break the goal into linking pieces and get regular feedback, are more likely to reach their goals. 
    • Do you set and stick to a schedule? If you only work weekdays, Monday morning and Friday afternoon are critical times. Have a Monday morning, timed schedule. Ideally wear clothes that you only wear for work and be at the desk by a specified time. Similarly, Friday afternoon, change clothes when work day ends, put away the work equipment and cover it so that it is out of your sight.
    • Every day, plan to do one thing you really enjoy – crossword, fixing something, a puzzle, a swim or a craft. Get fully engaged in doing this, for up to 30 minutes. After doing things we enjoy, we are more mentally alert and able to achieve.
    • Arrange your work area so that it is attractive, quiet, well-lit and temperate.  Change it every few weeks with small items – new photographs, flowers or a new perspective / view, if possible.
    • Keep as informed as you need but avoid over exposure. Listen to advice and recommendations from trusted sources and then avoid other news rehashing what is already known. Overexposure tricks us into falsely thinking that each version of the ‘story’ adds weight to the original, which adds to stress and anxiety.
    • Have a positive non-work routine too. Set daily routines as far as possible, and change them every 3 to 4 weeks. Add small, do-able novelty challenges. Avoid highly ambitious aims like learning to play the clarinet perfectly – set up goals you can reach, in short time frames to allow you to experience and enjoy the results.  

      Health and Hygeine

    Getting the Basics Right when Working from home for an Extended Period (e.g. during COVID-19)

    • Get up and go to bed at similar times every day and have a short ritual around each – e.g. 5 minute stretch, cup of green tea, read a page of a favourite book.
    • Keep up with personal hygiene and dressing for the occasion – work clothes don’t have to be those you previously wore into the workplace, but they should be different to your leisure clothing.
    • Eat healthy meals at regular times to preserve structure – store junk food separately and only access at weekends.
    • Exercise regularly – short spurts often, rather than random long physical challenges.
    • Pre-allocate your time on weekly basis - for work, exercise, rest and for trying out a new activity.

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    The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has also produced guidance on working remotely as there are a range of areas and impacts to be considered.

    • National Remote Work Strategy - Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment - link
    • Guidance for Working Remotely - Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment - link
    • Work Safely Protocol - Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment - link
    • Workpositive.ie - a free on-line risk assessment tool for carrying out psychosocial risk assessments - link
    • Code of Practice for Managing Bullying at Work - link
    • Podcast on Stress and Bullying during COVID-19 - link
    • Further information on COVID-19 is available at hsa.ie or you can email your enquiry to wcu@hsa.ie.