Are you wondering what your responsibilities are as an employer for remote workers? This article will outline what is expected from you as an organisation and how you can best look after employee health and wellbeing, as we explore ergonomic equipment for remote employees.
The ongoing pandemic has resulted in a rapid increase in the number of people working from home, and remote working has now become the norm for many. The Institute of Employment Studies’ Working at Home Wellbeing Survey, conducted during the first two weeks of the first lockdown, revealed there had been a significant increase in musculoskeletal complaints. Businesses are now expected to adapt their processes and procedures to support flexible working.
There are a variety of standards that employers should have in place for employees to guarantee they can carry out their work from home safely and productively, ranging from ensuring they have the necessary information and equipment to monitoring workload, mental health and overall wellbeing.
Business owners must guarantee that staff working remotely follow proper health, safety, and work procedures, just as they would in a traditional workplace.
According to UK health and safety legislation, employers are required to provide a safe workplace for all employees, including those working from home.
HSE and ergonomic equipment for remote employees
The HSE has a dedicated space for managing home workers’ health and safety that explains “As an employer, you have the same health and safety responsibilities for people working at home as for any other worker.
This guidance applies to those who:
- work at home long term
- routinely split their time between their workplace and home (sometimes called hybrid working)
Most of the time, risks to home workers will be low and the actions you should take to protect them will be straightforward.
Things you should consider as part of your risk assessment for home workers include:
- stress and poor mental health
- using equipment like computers and laptops safely
- their working environment
You should talk to your workers about their arrangements, as working from home may not be suitable for everyone. For example, some people may not have an appropriate place to work or may prefer to come into the workplace for wellbeing, mental health or other reasons.”
There is also a page on their website dedicated to employee’s, answering any questions that they might have about their employer’s responsibilities, viewable here.
Your responsibilities and advice on the provision of ergonomic equipment for remote employees
If you are asking yourself ‘am I required by law to supply ergonomic home equipment?’ the answer is no! But if you ask yourself, “Should I supply ergonomic home equipment to my staff to improve their productivity and look after their wellbeing?” the answer is most definitely Yes!
The HSE expects employers to create a safe work environment for all employees, regardless of where they work.
“Safe” means safeguarding personnel from dangers that could cause physical harm or sickness. Employers must take efforts to reduce or eliminate risks.
Our Head of Ergonomics Chris Barlow commented “Many employers are unaware of their responsibilities when it comes to risk assessing their remote employees, and the available ergonomic equipment that can not only reduce risk factors but also increase staff productivity. We’re here to help.
Over the last year, we’ve seen an array of home-based workstations including the use of kitchen worktops and ironing boards. The results of continuing working in this fashion could be catastrophic for employees and employers. With some simple recommendations and adjustments, any working environment can be made fit for its purpose. We recommend having a DSE assessment with one of our trusted ergonomic specialists.
A workstation or DSE assessment is a legal requirement for all DSE users (including home workers) to ensure your business complies with the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992. We recommend carrying out a DSE assessment when;
- A new member of staff starts work
- A new workstation is set up
- An existing workstation is changed
We offer three types of DSE assessment including 1. Standard, 2. Escalated workplace and 3. Complex. All of our assessments are carried out by trained professionals and after recommendations have been made, we can help employees to choose and implement the most appropriate equipment if any additional equipment is indeed required, most often, adjustments to current equipment and working habits are most suitable. If you would like more information about ergonomic equipment for remote employees or DSE assessments email me directly at email@example.com.”
What can employers do to look after the well-being of remote workers?
Ergonomic equipment for remote employees – what else is required from employers? Below are four legal requirements that employers should consider in order to ensure their employees’ emotional and physical well-being while working from home.
An employer is responsible for doing a risk assessment on a home office environment to ensure that the setup is comfortable and safe.
This can be done through video chats, images, an online questionnaire, or participating in a brief virtual interview to analyse a work routine and space.
Employers are required to provide information about how to work comfortably in an office environment, including how to set up a desk, chair, computer screen, and keyboard to ensure no bodily harm is caused in any way, and the same awareness and caution regarding these measures still apply when working from home.
In an earlier blog we provided ‘5 proven tips to set up an ergonomic workstation’, which employers may find useful.
Employers must guarantee that employees have the necessary tools to perform work from home. Equipment can range from a DSE-compliant chair, suitable desk, and separate keyboard and mouse (especially if working from a laptop), to other office equipment such as laptop stands, monitor arms and footrests.
Ergonomic equipment is recommended to help employees to feel as comfortable as possible in their place of work. Choosing the correct ergonomic equipment will result in a better work experience, happier and more productive employees, and a healthier working environment. Remtek Workplace offers a variety of equipment, accessories, and furniture to suit a range of needs. We offer chairs, desks, pointing devices, input devices, and stands amongst other things.
It is critical that a business encourages employees to set up a safe home office environment, providing instructions on how to do so, and allowing employees to take regular breaks away from their desks.
- Consider a working from home policy
Although it is not a legal requirement, we strongly advise that employers develop and implement a working from home policy to provide advice and clear information on what is and is not required of workers who work from home, as well as what their responsibilities as an employer are. Explicitly articulating what is expected of both parties in advance, will help to avoid or address conflicts that may arise later.
This document should include information about the employer’s equipment, including what happens if it is lost, stolen, or broken, as well as where employees can get help with any issues, whether they are HR or IT-related, and how and when an employer will conduct a risk assessment on employees’ homes.
If employees are concerned that their employer does not have a home-working policy in place, they can raise their concerns with a line manager or HR manager. If employees believe that their physical or mental health is becoming a problem, or that they don’t have enough resources to execute their jobs owing to a lack of care from their company, they should seek legal assistance.
Acas gives employees and employers free, impartial advice on workplace rights, rules and best practices. Their website offers policies and useful recommendations for home and hybrid working which can be viewed here.
- Ensure regular communication
It is critical for a company to have regular contact with their employees, whether via phone or email, in order to assess performance, workload, and health and safety.
This will assist in swiftly alleviating any worries that both parties may have, giving them the opportunity to agree on any adjustments to work practices or procedures that will ensure that employees receive the direction and care they are entitled to while working from home.
Because an employer is responsible for controlling workload and looking for signals that employees may be stressed, it is critical that employees know who to contact if problems like these emerge.
We always recommend that employer/employee communications are recorded and any actions are followed up and documented.
What injuries can providing ergonomic equipment for remote employees prevent?
Ergonomic equipment for remote employees; A study by the CIEHF has shown that on average, the implementation of an office ergonomics program can reduce the number of musculoskeletal problems by 61%, reduce lost workdays by 88% and reduce staff turnover by 87%
The following injuries can result from office-related pain, which can progress onto chronic illness:
- Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
- Headaches and migraines
- Neck strain
- Low back pain
- Upper back pain
- Leg pain or swelling
- Shoulder pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
By incorporating ergonomic equipment, you can see a significant improvement in employee wellness, not only for your own and your employees’ physical well-being, but also for the development of a better working environment, improved output quality, and improved financial health of the company through lower long-term costs.
Remote DSE assessments
The HSE explains that “As an employer, you must protect your workers from the health risks of working with display screen equipment (DSE), such as PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones.
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations apply to workers who use DSE daily, for continuous periods of an hour or more. We describe these workers as ‘DSE users’. The regulations don’t apply to workers who use DSE infrequently or only use it for a short time.”
We offer reliable DSE assessments for both, in-house and remote workers. During a remote DSE assessment there are four critical ergonomic issues we address:
- We recommend using a chair that can accommodate spinal curvature.
- The chair should be tall enough for the feet to rest flat on the floor (or on a footrest) and the thighs to be parallel to the floor.
Keyboards and mice
- Keyboards should be positioned so that the upper arms remain close to the torso. Hands should be resting level with, or just below the elbows.
- Adjust the sensitivity of the mouse to allow for a light touch.
- If a phone is used regularly whilst typing, a headset should be provided.
- Alternatively, a phone can be set to speaker mode.
- Place the monitor in front of the employee, approximately an arm’s reach away from the keyboard, and directly in line with the keyboard.
- The top of the monitor screen should be at or slightly below eye level at all times.
Other useful advice for employers
There is a wide range of information available for employers with regards to home working and employee wellbeing. Navigating through all of the information can be overwhelming. That is where we come in. We partner with businesses across the nation to provide professional Assistive Technology Training, Disability Awareness Training, DSE compliance training, Disability Inclusion Training, DSE Assessments and e-learning solutions.
We also offer reliable advice when it comes to setting up workstations and promoting better employee wellbeing, for example encouraging changes in posture.
Sitting is not the most natural position for the human body. This is why, in addition to regular exercise, it’s important to encourage employees to switch positions on a frequent basis. A height-adjustable desk, when combined with an ergonomic sit/stand chair, can be extremely beneficial for desk workers. In last month’s blog article, we explored the ‘advantages and disadvantages of standing desks’.
It’s also important to remind employees that alternating sitting and standing positions aren’t enough to keep MSDs at bay. The correct posture must still be adopted. In a seated position, the feet should be flat on the floor and the knees should be 1 to 2 inches apart.
The top of display screens should be at eye level to keep the neck in a comfortable position. If using a laptop for work it’s also important to consider using a laptop stand and a separate keyboard and mouse.
Take frequent breaks and move around your workspace as much as possible.
The ideal habit is to stand up and stretch for a minute or two every 20 minutes. Or, take a walk while preparing a cup of tea or coffee. Movement benefits circulation, comfort, and performance. It also decreases the risk of injury.
For more advice on ergonomic equipment for remote employees visit our blog here.
Should I invest in ergonomic equipment for remote employees?
Employers should definitely invest in ergonomic equipment for remote employees and give workers guidance on how to complete a display screen equipment (DSE) assessment at home.
When a need is recognised, HSE recommend that employers endeavour to address it as much as possible. This could be anything from offering a separate keyboard or mouse to providing larger goods like Monitors, ergonomic chairs or height-adjustable desks to staff who use laptops.
While companies have a responsibility to ensure that employees are working in ways that do not jeopardise their health, employees also have a responsibility. Workers should be vigilant in identifying potential safety hazards and taking steps to mitigate them.
To conclude we thoroughly recommend that employers invest in ergonomic equipment for remote employees. But, don’t just shop online to find the cheapest deals, seek advice from professionals to make sure that this year’s cheap deal doesn’t become next year’s landfill filler!
If you have a question about any of our ergonomic items or would like to book a FREE consultation with one of our experts email us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.