Working from home: how to protect your employees

With all employees encouraged by the government to work from home wherever possible during the coronavirus ‘lockdown’, HSE offers advice for employers on how they can support their staff.

HSE Working From Home Advice

What do employers need to consider when staff are working from home?

Employers have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as they do for any other workers. When someone is working from home, whether it be permanently or temporarily, as an employer you should consider:

  • How will you keep in touch with your employees?
  • What work activity will your employees be doing? And how long for?
  • Can this work be done safely?
  • Do you need to put control measures in place to protect your employees?

How can employers support lone workers?

There will always be greater risks for lone workers with no direct supervision. It’s therefore important to keep in touch with lone workers regularly to make sure they are healthy and safe.

According to HSE, risks that particularly affect lone workers include:

  • stress and mental health or wellbeing
  • a person’s medical suitability to work alone
  • the workplace itself, for example if it's in a rural or isolated area
  • violence

How can employers lower the risk of stress among their employees working from home?

Lone working can cause work-related stress and affect people’s mental health. If contact is poor, staff working from home may feel disconnected or isolated and this can affect stress levels and mental health. This means you must provide supervision, education and training, as well as implementing enough control measures to protect the homeworker.

It’s also important to put procedures in place, no matter how temporary, so that employers can keep in direct contact with home workers. This way you can recognise signs of stress as early as possible.

A change in the way someone thinks or acts can be a sign of stress. For example, they may:

  • take more time off
  • have mood swings 
  • be more withdrawn
  • have a loss of motivation, commitment and confidence
  • have increased emotional reactions – being more sensitive or aggressive

Acting early can reduce the impact of pressure and make it easier to reduce or remove the causes. If managers are worried that an employee is showing some of these signs, they should encourage them to see their GP. If there is something wrong at work, and this has caused the problem, managers should take action.

What are the risks when working with display screen equipment?

For those people who are working at home on a long-term basis, the risks associated with using display screen equipment (DSE), such as PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones, must be controlled by doing home workstation assessments. However, given the coronavirus restrictions are considered temporary, there is little increased risk from DSE work.

That said, there are some simple steps employers can encourage their employees take to reduce the risks from display screen work:

  • break up long spells of DSE work with rest breaks (at least 5 minutes every hour)
  • avoid awkward, static postures by regularly changing position
  • get up and move or do stretching exercises
  • avoid eye fatigue by changing focus or blinking from time to time

See also

What does the COVID-19 'lockdown' mean for UK employers?

Find out more

Protect home workers (HSE)

Coronavirus (COVID-19): what you need to do (GOV.uk)

Common questions - Coronavirus (COVID-19) (NHS)

Image: Getty Images

Publication date: 26 March 2020