In Part 3 of Harvest HR & People Solutions “Workforce Management in Crisis” series, Harvest Director, Maree Herath provided Working from Home Essentials.

When addressing Working from Home, Maree highlighted the tools that are already listed on Workcover or WorkSafe websites in addition to www.fairwork.gov.au.

 

How Did Working from Home Work before COVID-19?

Working from home was a joint consultation between employer and employee. An employee would request working from home and the employer and employee would consult and determine if the work could be done from home and then ensure the worker would be safe within their home work environment.

 

Working from Home Amidst COVID-19

With COVID-19 a lot changed, and with government directives around social distancing and group gatherings, workers moved and became home office workers immediately. In this situation, many organisations didn’t have everything in place to ensure they were providing a safe workplace for their employees.

 

Employers are Responsible for the Physical and Psychological Safety of their Workers

According to WorkSafe*; Employers have duty so far as is reasonably practicable to provide a workplace for their employees that is safe and without risk to health. This can be applied equally when workers work from another location outside of their office – such as their home office. When working from home, an employer’s duty goes beyond the workplace.

It goes to every single home environment of every employee you have in your employ who are working from home.

Maree referred to precedents where injuries at home have been held as a workplace injury. An example was Hargraeves v Telstra – 2004 where an employee slipped down the stairs on two occasions. Telstra argued that the employee was away from her workstation but it was held that it was a workplace injury and Telstra was responsible.

Because of this, employers have introduced firm policies around working from home including home health and safety audits. Here an OHS representative would go and inspect the work place (ie/ the home). www.worksafe.vic.gov.au has a checklist of all the requirements that need to be in place within a home office.

 

How do employers protect themselves?

  1. Zero Risk
  2. Have a working from home policy
  3. Have a home workplace inspection by a qualified Safety Inspector.

However, we are in COVID-19

We have social distancing rules, group gathering issues not to mention the number of employees that are now working from home that may make it logistically impossible to cover the number of checks that may be required.

  1. Employee check and declaration
  2. Ensure you have a working from home policy
  3. Have a robust safety checklist, that your employee conducts and employee declaration

Here, if found lacking – the employer will need to address safe working from home. We have seen employers doing the “mercy dash” to gain furniture for employees. Alternatively the worker may wish to install the home office equipment and the employer and employee can agree to split the cost particularly if, beyond the crisis, this may be a continuing arrangement.

This represents the basic cover all employers need to have for home office workers. The key, Maree commented, is to be reasonable.

Most workers in their home environment will have their “home-hat” on.

Employers need to reinforce with workers that they are responsible for their safety and wellbeing in their home environment. It won’t be unreasonable for a home worker to do their household chores. Employers need to be aware that this will indeed happen but keep the communication high so workers continue to be aware of their own health and safety even at home.

 

Worker Wellbeing

A lot of employers have nailed the physical safety elements of their home based worker. However psychological risks are more at play, especially amidst a crisis – such as COVID-19.

WorkSafe Victoria’s page lists ways employers can keep employees connected and mentally healthy. Examples include regularly checking in to make sure employees feel supported and are coping, creating opportunities for team communications, being available and accessible (managers and team leaders especially), encouraging physical activity and a healthy lifestyle and ensuring employees disengage from their work at day’s end.

What can employers do?

  • Daily work calls
  • Be proactive. It’s up to you.
  • Be visible. Have a daily “stand-up” or regular team meetings using zoom, Webex or Microsoft Teams
  • Develop a program to keep mental health awareness front of mind
  • Ensure there is self-awareness around moods and responses
  • Be creative – some of the best innovations often come out of adversity if we just look for it.

At Harvest our mental health and wellbeing program now includes:

  • Chunking the work in order to be productive and focused.
  • How employees can respond amidst the crisis.
  • Be accepting of moods and mood swings. Know and accept the mood, flow through it.
  • Doing the good stuff. Phoning or Facetiming a friend, thinking of random acts of kindness, planning something exciting (beyond the crisis), access inspirational words/books, get out in nature, develop new skills or reacquaint with old hobbies and interests.
  • Shoring up the best health amidst the crisis – eating, drinking and sleeping were the first ones we have addressed. We also looked at the ‘fun” pieces – doing the things that make you smile.
  • Build emotional muscle – consider the self-talk “This is bad” to “This is good! What can I learn?”
  • Ensure professional support is available – Beyond Blue and EAP (Employee Assistance Programs) are key channels for your staff

 

Where to from here? 

If you are interested in learning more, Harvest’s Workforce Management in Crisis Package is available for purchase for only $99.95 (incl GST).

The package includes:

  • Expert articles
  • 4 x 30 minute Recorded Webinars
  • A Working from Home Guide
  • A Working from Home Policy Template
  • A Working from Home Safety Checklist & Employee Declaration
  • An Example of a Mental Health & Wellbeing Program to navigate COVID-19
  • A Workforce Planning Guide

This offer includes two hours of  expert consultation PLUS the resources to effectively manage the people side of your business amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

Contact Harvest at info@harvesthr.com.au to get your Workforce Management in Crisis Pack TODAY!

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