According to a study by the Office for National Statistics, 46.6 per cent of people in employment worked from home in April 2020.
Homeworking: Pros and cons
Just a year before, only 30 per cent of the work force did some work from home, and just 5.1 per cent did so regularly. The rise in homeworking, as one might expect, has primarily been driven by employers wanting to reduce the risk of COVID transmission.
It doesn’t seem like this trend will change significantly anytime soon. So the question then arises, how do we look after homeworkers?
I’d need to look at the calendar to work out how long it’s been since I was in RoSPA’s Edinburgh office with my colleagues. I have missed the some of rhythms of office life: coffee breaks, impromptu meetings that can spark a great idea when taking a little stroll at lunchtime.
It’s the synergies between people at work that make the difference and help us to thrive, while delivering, in RoSPA’s case, messages that save lives.
The impact of lockdown on each of us will be different, and those of us who are now homeworkers by habit need this to be understood by our employers and co-workers. That step change – from working from home one day a week to fit in with other demands, to being home alone – has been beneficial. No more daily commute for me! However as time has moved on this virtual world of work has become less engaging, and a colleague recently confessed they were “all (Microsoft) Teamed out”.
The conversation about safe and healthy steps back to work is ongoing, and it’s only right that there is a pause for reflection to consider taking the best bits of our recent experiences to “build back better”.
So what do the building blocks of this process look like?
Managing safety for homeworkers
In her blog The Long-Term Impact of Homeworking Arising from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Crisis
, Dr Chloe Billing, research fellow at the University of Birmingham, illustrated the impact of lockdown by sharing the Legoland Discovery Centre images of Birmingham city centre
devoid of tourists, school groups, commuters and construction workers. The streets are empty and roads are quiet, each mini-figure being safely stored until it is time for them to retake their place in the bustling hub of the city.
How do employers “safely store” their homeworkers?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published some guidance
on managing home workers. Can you answer these safe storage questions from the HSE
, and do the answers stack up?
- How have you kept in touch with your homeworkers?
- What work activities have they been doing (and for how long)?
- Can, or indeed has, the work been done safely?
- Do you need to put control measures in place to protect them…as for many, homeworking is their new normal?
Here at RoSPA, when we have been speaking to award winners, members and ambassadors about their experience over the last few months, the theme that has jumped out has been the importance of empathy and connection.
It’s the relationships between people that sustain us in tough times.
So that five-minute “how are you doing?” call, and ”small talk”, is more important than you think and more powerful than you know…your homeworkers are the hub of your organisation, so take care of them.
Dr Karen McDonnell
Occupational safety and health adviser
Planning to reopen your work place? RoSPA can help with a Covid-19 Back-to-Work Review
Posted: 9/22/2020 11:46:00 AM