How to Create a Safe Environment Working from Home
At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of people working from home increased significantly. Even after a year, the trend of home working is not showing any signs of weakening.
On the contrary, a survey from PwC revealed that 86% of bosses in Britain see a permanent shift towards remote work in the future.
Moreover, 84% of employees believe they can do their duties just as effectively when working from home.
Who can blame them? No more hassle of dressing up for work, long commutes, and noisy office distractions. You can sit contentedly on your coach and do your money-making ventures in the comfort of your pajamas.
Plus, you cut on fuel and transportation expenses, enjoy more flexibility, improve work-life balance, and develop independence. And don’t forget the joy of home-cooked meals!
But working from home comes with challenges and, believe it or not, hazards. Many people generally regard their houses as safer than their offices, which causes them to overlook the potential risks that exist in a home setting.
Work-related accidents do happen at home – from simple trips and falls to more serious ones such as a fire.
And home working can take a toll on your health as well.
So, what are the risks involved, and how do you address these? Let’s find out how you can turn your home into a safe environment that is ideal for remote work.
Home Working Risk Assessment
Before you can implement safety measures that reduce, if not remove, hazards in the workplace, you should first identify the potential dangers and who may be affected by them.
That is, in essence, the purpose of risk assessment.
Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, employers are responsible for the well-being of their workers, whether they are working in an office setting or at home.
All employers must assist homeworkers in complying with the applicable health and safety laws in whatever way possible.
In a home working risk assessment, the employers and employees work together to determine if the workspace is suitable for the remote job. This can be done simply by the employee doing online working from home training in home health and safety.
There are five primary factors in the working environment that you need to assess: space, lighting, temperature, accessibility, and display screen equipment (DSE).
The assessment also includes fire and electrical safety, stress management, and manual handling.
The Health and Safety Executive requires that the workstation should be spacious, well-lighted, properly ventilated, have access to temperature adjustment, and free of clutter.
Spaces such as sheds, attics, or garages are generally not suitable as work areas. Smoke detectors should be in good condition and cables, wires, plugs, and sockets should be free of damage.
A potential cause of trips, slips, or falls, such as loose carpets and obstacles on doorways or floors, should be eliminated.
If your job entails staring at computers for long periods, you can arrange with your employers for eyes and eyesight testing as part of risk assessment.
More importantly, you should also be aware of your company’s procedures for reporting accidents or emergencies.
The home offers a respite from a long day at the office. But when you work exclusively from home, the line between your professional and personal life becomes blurred.
Increased isolation due to being confined in the same place for a long period could lead to loneliness, boredom, and in some cases, anxiety, and depression.
Furthermore, remote work disconnects you from colleagues, which makes it difficult for you to get advice and proper support.
Physical activity could help relieve stress. Refrain from staying in the same environment all the time.
Leave the house for a short break, a relaxing walk, or some fresh air. Be sure to mark the end of your workday to avoid overworking.
Stay in touch with your co-workers to recreate the sense of support and friendship in your office. Stress is normal in a new work set-up.
But if you notice signs of depression in you or among your colleagues, be sure to get help as early as possible.
How Are You Sitting?
Yes, your couch seems cozy, but it’s hardly the proper place to work from. Sitting for eight hours a day puts a lot of strain on your body, especially if you don’t have a suitable desk and chair to use.
It could lead to injuries and long-term ill-health, including musculoskeletal conditions.
The HSE shows 480,000 persons suffer from work-related musculoskeletal disorders. The most affected areas are the upper limbs or neck with 212,000 cases (44%), followed by the back with 176,000 cases (37%), and the lower limbs at 93,000 (19%).
Neck and lower back pains are among the most common injuries experienced by persons working at home. Incorrect chair height and lack of movement for long periods can cause lower back pain while staring forward at a computer monitor for hours on end can create tension between the neck and shoulders.
Repetitive movements such as constant typing, mouse usage, and overuse of wrists, can lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
The DSE you are using, such as laptops and touch screens, can also affect your health. Looking at the computer screen for too long without breaks results in eye strain, fatigue, blurred vision, and headache.
To prevent the risk of injuries and musculoskeletal conditions, be sure to set up a comfortable workstation.
Your chair should have a backrest and sufficient padding to support the curve of your back. Your upper arms should rest comfortably on your sides, with your forearms at 90 to 100 degrees angle, and your feet flat on the floor or footrest.
The front of your keyboard should have enough space for you to conveniently lay your hands and relax your wrists when not typing. Place items you frequently use within your reach to keep from unnecessary twisting, straining, or stretching.
Change positions frequently to improve blood flow and allow your muscles to recover. You can incorporate exercise into your workday by taking 10-minute walks, preparing a meal, or standing up to flex your muscles.
As they say, for every 30 minutes of work, sit for 20, stand for eight, and stretch for two.
When it comes to protecting your eyesight, be sure that your eyes are the same level as the top of the computer screen, which should be 20 to 24 inches away from your face.
Avoid intrusive glares or bright reflections by positioning your desk against windows or intense lights.
Let your eyes rest by following the 20/20/20 technique: every 20 minutes look at an item at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds or more.
One thing many home workers disregard while staying indoors is their immune system. You can boost your body’s natural defenses by staying well-hydrated.
Plus, maintaining the right amount of body fluid bolsters your energy which, ultimately, makes you more productive.
Keep a bottle of water near you throughout the day. Remind yourself to drink every couple of hours by setting an alarm.
If you find water bland, a squeeze of lemon or a splash of your favorite fruit adds flavor and makes it tastier.
Lastly, stay away from foods or beverages that dehydrate, such as salty snacks, alcohol, and coffee. Instead, enjoy milk, a smoothie, or soup with low sodium content.