Many remote work arrangements were hastily implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and left employers little time to update their health and safety policies. Many organizations are planning to make these arrangements permanent and need to rethink their health and safety policies for remote work.
Health and safety concerns for remote workers
Employers are responsible for the health and safety of employees in the workplace, wherever that workplace may be. While the rapid shift to remote work helped reduce employees’ risk of exposure to COVID-19, they encountered other health and safety concerns. Ergonomics is a primary concern with remote work, but employers need to consider other hazards. Below are some more rarely addressed health and safety concerns that employers need to account for while managing a remote workforce:
- Online harassment: Working in a remote setting, though useful for slowing the spread of the pandemic, comes with challenges. Employees are interacting remotely by e-mail, instant messaging, and other digital communication systems. Considering its informal nature, remote work can pose a high risk of online harassment and cyberbullying. Therefore, employers need to ensure that all communication, even if informal, is respectful and cordial.
- Substance abuse: When employees work from home, companies have limited control over their drug and alcohol consumption during work time. With the increased access to intoxicants, remote workforces are more prone to face the issue of substance abuse compared to working in the office. Intoxication can seriously affect an employee’s ability to work safely and efficiently in any environment.
- Fatigue: With homes turned into offices, many employees are struggling to maintain work–life balance. It is important to note that change in the work environment can directly affect working capabilities and productivity. Fatigue, a state of being very tired, has become a health concern, as it can lead to burnout if not appropriately addressed.
What can employers do?
Open and ongoing communication is key to identifying and addressing health and safety issues during remote work arrangements. Employees need to have clear expectations for how they should conduct themselves and be informed of new procedures to report health and safety concerns. In addition, all relevant company policies need to be updated to reflect these changes and be reviewed by employees. Your health and safety representative or committee should be able to help you with all these steps and more.
Having laid out some serious health and safety concerns like substance abuse, it is important that employers don’t ignore common challenges and concerns that remote workers can face. For example, make sure employees with desk jobs have an ergonomically sound workstation to reduce fatigue and discomfort. In addition, provide your team with training and tips on maintaining a healthy work–life balance. Identifying and acting on issues that your workforce may face can help increase employee engagement at work.
Guide to Managing Remote Health and Safety Issues
We realize that for many organizations, remote work is here to stay, either partially or fully. However, considering the longevity of such a work setting, employers must take urgent actions to manage health and safety issues while working remotely. That is why our expert team of HR professionals has prepared a guide that discusses each of these health and safety concerns in more detail. Download our FREE Guide to Managing Remote Health and Safety Issues now and learn how to address these issues when your employees are working remotely.
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