Doing your homework - The home office advice

Working From Home: Setting Up A Home Office

The home office advice

Although snow always stirs up feelings of excitement and fun, there’s no denying that the novelty soon fades as we found. The result is that increasing numbers of employers are now looking at more flexible working arrangements and introducing contingency plans to enable remote working. Although it’s not practical for many organisations, it’s ideal for those who use computers and telephones as their main tools.

In addition to maintaining business continuity, developing an alternative to the normal nine to five working day can have additional benefits such as reducing business mileage which is good for the environment and helps employers to cut their carbon footprints.

Technology increasingly supports remote working, with conferencing facilities and computer software that enables users to access servers from any location growing in popularity. In addition, employers that introduce remote working on a permanent basis can significantly reduce other overheads because workplaces can save on space, heating and electricity costs.

For other organisations that might want to expand some departments but don’t have the space, having workers off-site could be the answer. There’s also evidence suggesting that remote workers are more productive and less stressed because most avoid the daily commute and also manage to achieve a better work-life balance. Plus, there are often fewer distractions at home with no colleagues around to chat with, no company coffee breaks and no 'unnecessary' meetings.

In addition, research shows that because remote workers are not physically in the workplace they often feel the need to prove their effectiveness through their outputs. This can lead to increased efficiency and prompt responses to emails and calls. So, a severe winter might not be such a bad thing after all!

Remember that you still have health and safety responsibilities for people who work at or from home.Your duties are likely to include:

  • Carrying out a health and safety risk assessment.
  • Purchasing employers’ liability insurance.
  • Testing, certifying and maintaining electrical equipment provided by the business.
  • Ensuring computers can be used comfortably and without glare.
  • Making sure lighting levels are appropriate, you may have to install office style lighting like fluorescent fittings.
  • Avoiding trailing cables to reduce the risks of trips and falls, if necessary you could use cable protectors.
  • Ensuring staff are suitably trained to work safely.
  • Keeping records of, and if necessary reporting, any serious accidents, illnesses or injuries experienced by home workers.
  • You also need to ensure that employees take care of business equipment and information in their possession.
  • Establish procedures to be followed if any item is damaged or lost.
  • Secure and fire resistant storage for files would be sensible and confidential documents should be shredded to avoid any security breaches.

As an employer you’re likely to be responsible for providing, installing and maintaining all equipment unless the employee uses their own. Equipment you need to provide may include:

  • Workstation, including suitable desk and chair.
  • Filing cabinet, drawers and shelving.
  • PC with office software, email and broadband internet connection.
  • Dedicated business telephone line.
  • Printer and fax machine.
  • Stationery and office supplies.

You’ll probably need to extend your business insurance to cover equipment used by employees in their homes as the employee’s home insurance policy is unlikely to cover this. They should check with their insurer to make sure they’re covered for working at home. It’s also a good idea to get them to check with their local council as they may have to pay business rates.