For many workplaces, COVID-19 significantly disrupted where and how work is done. While things are largely returning to normal, many businesses saw positive results from having their staff work from home and intend to continue these arrangements beyond the pandemic.
Working from home (WFH) brings work health and safety issues for employers and below are answers to some common questions about working from home.
What are employers’ and workers’ obligations when WFH?
Employers have the primary duty of care and must do what is practicable to ensure the health and safety of their workers, including when their staff work from home.
Workers must follow procedures and instructions from employers and also take care of their own health and safety. It is important for employers and workers to work together to identify and minimise work health and safety risks. View handy tips on health and safety for working from home.
What are the work health and safety considerations for working from home?
Consider suitability of duties, individual circumstances, and the location, set up, work expectations and workload. Refer to the safe and healthy WFH arrangements and the Health and safety WFH checklist (PDF, 0.13 MB).
The film series Getting your workspace to work for you at working with computers gives practical ways to make WFH safer.
Who is responsible for ensuring workers have a safe workstation set up at home?
Workers must keep their workstation environment free from slip and trip hazards, have emergency procedures in place for fires and ensure no electrical hazards. Workers with health needs may need professional advice to support WFH and encouraging workers to report issues early can stop problems developing.
Must I provide workers with equipment to enable them to work safely from home?
Employers must ensure the health and safety of all workers. Using the health and safety WFH checklist (PDF, 0.13 MB), consult workers and find out what is required given their job tasks, software and IT needs. Allow workers to borrow from the office, or offset part of the setup costs. Key elements include having a suitable chair, separate or raised laptop screen, keyboard and mouse if a worker is engaged for an 8-hour day.
How can I support my workers who are finding working from home stressful?
Some workers find it difficult to adjust. What you can do?
- communicate regularly, urge workers to contact each other, and advise who they can talk with and where to find more information, including if you have a health safety representative (HSR)
- provide information about mental health and support services (Beyond blue has set up a website or you may have existing employee assistance programs on offer) and encourage workers to consider their health behaviours by using the healthy habits at home checklist (DOCX, 0.55 MB)
- share relevant information with your workers and HSRs as it becomes available
- be flexible with work hours and encourage healthy work practices such as setting workloads and boundaries, promote active movement and breaks throughout the day
- ensure they are physically comfortable with their workstation set up.
Read more about health and safety for working from home.