Ill-equipped COVID-19 homeworkers ‘at risk’ unless employers recognise duty of care
A new generation of long-term homeworkers created by COVID-19 is at risk physically and mentally through inadequate employer support. Research reveals employees are already feeling the negative effects of a home environment often ill-equipped for the working day. The company behind the research, EIZO, warns there may be a rise in ‘Homeworking LOSERS’, or ‘Laptops On Sofas and Employment Rights Shelved’.
Almost forty per cent (39%) of people are functioning without any additional, employer-provided equipment such as a laptop, mouse, keyboard, monitor or desk chair. And staff who are receiving some form of extra kit for working at home make up – at most – just over a third of the total polled (37% receiving laptops).
While employers might be doing their best to support staff by providing laptops, a mouse (33% of total) and keyboard (27% of total), this lack of appropriate equipment – and low provision of desk chairs (17% of total) – can lead to physical effects on homeworking staff. The problem is exacerbated by only a third of people having a dedicated home office space and even 12% claiming to work from a sofa with a laptop on their knees.
Colin Woodley, CEO at EIZO, said: “As many of us are facing new lockdown restrictions, more people working from home is inevitable. Even when restrictions start to ease we understand many organisations may offer a more flexible way of working in the future.”
“This increases the risk of creating a nation of ‘Homeworking LOSERS’ – in other words, ‘Laptops On Sofas and Employment Rights Shelved’. Employers need to understand their duty of care to employees extends to their homeworking technology and furniture requirements.”
According to Health and Safety Executive guidance on long-term homeworking and display screen equipment, employers should ensure “full workstation assessments” and “provide workers with appropriate equipment and advice on control measures”.
According to the research, employees are already suffering the ill-effects of homeworking issues: back strain (28%) and neck strain (20%) feature among the top five working from home issues currently experienced. Back strain places second after “interruptions in the home”, with working longer hours in third place (26%) and “negative impact on mental health” (24%) coming in fourth.
Colin continued: “We know homeworkers want their employers to take action on these issues: almost a third (32%) who responded to our research would like them to provide more equipment, better equipment (25%) and discuss needs with employees on an individual basis (28%).
“At a minimum, this should include a desk and chair for posture, neck and back health plus a monitor for eye and neck health, space saving keyboards and computers with adequate audio-visual equipment to support the increasing number of online meetings.”