Updated: Jul 1
Flexible working arrangements have been of interest since the 1970’s and as there was an advancement of technology and the internet, there was a rise in the interest of working from home. Yet, despite the benefits of working from home (WFH), it did not gain a strong movement up until recently.
Since our country has gone through a global pandemic, many businesses have had to adapt and make the shift towards flexible working arrangements. Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed 41% of people worked from home at least once a week in February 2021, compared to 24% prior to the pandemic.
At the same time, ComCare received 25 work from home claims from April to June 2020 during the pandemic compared to zero claims in the same period the year prior.
Whether your employees are working from the office or from home, you have an obligation to ensure their health and safety. The Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 states that employees working from home are still covered when injury occurs. As an employer it is important to know and consider the risks in managing remote or blended workforce.
So what are the areas of risk when considering working from home arrangements for your business? Although not an extensive list, here are the three common risk areas which if left unaddressed, are likely to lead to an increase in workplace injury claims and loss of productivity.
1. Ergonomics at home.
Although working from home allows your employees to individualise their workspace, it is pertinent that this is done ergonomically to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries, poor posture, fatigue, and low productivity levels. Allied Health Therapists have seen an increase in patients with complaints of a sore back, neck, arms and wrists. Physical work-related injuries are responsible for substantial economic cost. In accordance with Safe Work Australia (2020) data, musculoskeletal disorders accounted for almost 45% of serious workers' compensation claims.
In 2012-2013 total economic loss due to work-related injury was estimated to be $61.8 billion dollars in Australia.
What can you do to address the risks associated with your employees home office configurations?
As a start, develop WFH policies which support employees to complete a self-assessment and subsequently address any gaps.
Not sure where to start? Talk to Flexiwell Group, we can help!
2. Mental Health
There is a mixed result when it comes to studies of benefits and challenges in relation to employees mental health when working from home.
Some workers, with the ability to work from home, report a higher level of job satisfaction, feeling grateful, more at ease, happy and enthusiastic. Others, report higher levels of boredom, frustration, anger, anxiety, and fatigue.
It is important to be aware of mental health issues that could arise because of your employees feeling isolated and anxious when working from home. It would seem that the benefits or challenges can be influenced by personal traits and depend on individual openness to new experiences. In short, working from home is not for everyone.
So what can you do to mitigate some of the risks to your employees mental wellness? Start with frequent communication, workplace behavior training, incorporating a balance of working from home and in the office, and providing access to the relevant support services.
Check your levels of trust in your workers. Managers with low-trust can demotivate workers by micromanaging workers who work from home, therefore leading to low self esteem and anxiety in the employees.
Not sure how to change this? Talk to our Leadership Coach, there are multiple approaches which can help.
3. Work -Life Balance.
With the onset of COVID19 there has been a significant growth in employees now working from home. The shift to work from home has occurred fast and often without adequate training and resources. As a result, some of your employees may have difficulty delineating between work and home leading to fatigue, burnout, and stress.
What can you do? Consider the policies and procedures for your businesses with flexible working arrangements, which may include an individually developed balance of work from home and work from the office.
Consider training for your employees to help develop good boundaries. Lead by example!
Where to from here?
So, what is the best option? Work from Home? Work from the Office? Or 50/50?
Working from home is not effective for every company, however, including flexible working arrangements can be very beneficial in some cases. A mix of work from home and work from the office can maintain effective communication, whilst simultaneously allowing for flexibility, supporting psychological and physiological well-being, and compensating for some financial loss due to the pandemic.
Given the current times and unpredictability of the current pandemic, the 50/50 option may become the new norm for businesses around Australia.
With this transition of working arrangements for your business, it is vital that as a business you review your current arrangements, contracts, policies and procedures to ensure you are doing all that is reasonably practicable to provide a safe work environment for your employees working from home. This in turn will reduce your risk of an increase in injury claims.
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