Are Your Employees’ WFH Set-Ups Working?

May 17, 2022 | Activate Learning | 15 min read

As a compliance leader, you’re probably well-versed in workplace safety guidelines for traditional work environments. You understand best practices for training programs, and have likely educated your team on everything from bloodborne pathogen awareness to electrical safety. Under your guidance, employees at all levels of your organization, across any location, are trained and prepared to meet the hazards relevant to their work environment.

But over the past couple of years, the global pandemic has pushed many workers out of a traditional office setting and into a hybrid or remote work environment. As a result, compliance leaders have been required to reassess common workplace hazards and rethink how to communicate potential risks and control measures to employees.

To help navigate this challenge, Skillsoft created a group of pandemic compliance training courses to help organizations navigate these new challenges. Here are just a few:

  • Home Office Safety Awareness
  • Safety Short: Coronaviruses and COVID-19
  • Mental Health and COVID-19

These resources are meant to provide ongoing guidance and support to organizations looking to do the right thing in a time marked by rapid change.

Ensuring Workplace Safety – At Home 

With more employees working from home offices than ever before, injuries and illnesses that occur may be considered work-related if the injury or illness occurs while the employee is performing work for pay or compensation in the home.

This is important to note, as many workers are finding out the potential hazards of working from home only after an injury occurs. For example, did you know that 41% of Americans have had new or increased back, neck, or shoulder pain since they began working at home?

It is the responsibility of every organization to:

  • Understand Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) regulatory perspective for home office work-related injuries
  • Provide tools and guidance for employees to identify and reduce ergonomic hazards in their home office environment
  • Establish methods and tools for employees to identify common hazards and prevent accidents in the home workspace
  • Ensure that your organization’s environmental, health and safety (EHS) policies are clearly communicated, understood, and implemented consistently among employees
  • Provide effective safety training for employees and track participation

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It is important for employers to ensure that employees have a safe work environment, even at home. While OSHA won’t “hold employers liable for employees’ home offices and does not expect employers to inspect the home offices of their employees,” there are steps that you can take to protect employees who are working from home.

Especially since – globally – 16% of companies are now fully remote.

According to a study from Stanford Graduate School of Business, performance is boosted by 22% when employees are allowed to work from home. And as more organizations move in this direction, it is important to check in with your employees often to ensure that their work from home setups are actually … working.

Understanding and Mitigating Home Office Risks

Foremost, you will need to consider how employees evaluate their work environments. You may also have to provide employees with necessary additional equipment, revise existing policies to accommodate home-office work, and provide relevant tools and training for employees.

Think about the following home office hazards:

  • Ergonomics: It may be difficult for remote workers to conduct an ergonomic self-assessment. That means that employees could be suffering from any number of risks at home, including poor posture, repetitive strain, poor lighting, poor ventilation, and more.
  • Harassment: Decentralized and isolated workplaces are risk factors for sexual harassment because the channels through which remote work occurs — text, phone, video — are often unmonitored.
  • Electrical safety: More than one in three people are unaware of the risks of overloading electrical outlets. Warning signs of this hazard could include buzzing sounds, dimming lights, or a tripped circuit breaker.
  • Cybersecurity: 53% of remote employees said they use personal computers for business, without proper security. Ways to stay safe while working from home include using antivirus software, keeping others away from your work devices, using your corporate Virtual Private Network (VPN), and ensuring strong passwords on all devices and applications.
  • Slips, trips, and falls: Electric cords are a tripping hazard, as is poor furniture arrangement, clutter, and uncarpeted stairs. Employees who understand the particular risk factors that might be present in their home are better able to mitigate that risk.

Employers need to be aware of hazards in the employees’ work area and provide training based on common hazards related to emergency and disaster preparedness, electrical safety, fire safety, ergonomics, back safety, and slips, trips, and falls. In developing materials to support home office safety, consider flexible tools, such as online training, checklists, and safety bulletins, to drive adoption and reinforcement across the workforce.

Skillsoft has a library of home office training materials, including:

  • Compliance Brief: Home Office Safety provides an overview of accidents and injuries associated with working in a home office. In addition, common hazards are identified and applicable control measures described. Topics include static work and ergonomic hazards, eye strain, mental health effects, and more.
  • Home Office: Ergonomics 2.0 will help employees identify musculoskeletal disorders, early signs and symptoms of musculoskeletal injuries and potential exposures in a home office. Employees will also learn actions for controlling ergonomic exposures in order to reduce or eliminate musculoskeletal disorders, ways to modify or adjust home office equipment, and ways to prevent back injuries.
  • Home Office: Fire and Emergencies 2.0 allows learners to gain an understanding of how fires start and learn ways to prevent fires in a home office work environment. They’ll learn how to appropriately respond if there’s a fire in their home, which fire extinguisher to use for a specific type of fire and when to evacuate the premises.
  • Home Office: Greener Spaces raises awareness on sustainability and describes how to set up a sustainable home office. Employees will learn about waste minimization and pollution, ways to reduce both paper and non-paper office waste and how to minimize energy use in your home and while driving.
  • Home Office: Security provides an awareness-level orientation of basic home office security fundamentals including appropriate actions for workers to take in the event of potential threats that may be encountered at home, including trespassers and domestic violence. Consideration is also given to cybersecurity, how to react to fires and explosions, and how to respond to a call for evacuation or shelter-in-place.
  • Home Office: Slips, Trips, and Falls 2.0 will help learners to recognize and prevent slip, trip, and fall hazards when working from home. They will explore ways to minimize walkway hazards, as well as how to prevent injuries on stairs. They’ll also learn how to use ladders safely.

Celebrating Global Employee Health and Fitness Month

It comes down to this: Six out of ten people agree that “their employer bears some responsibility for ensuring their overall health.” So, whether your employees are working from the office or from their own home office, it is important to ensure that they are compliant with all relevant safety guidelines.

And you can take this one step further.

In honor of Global Employee Health & Fitness Month (GEHFM), this May, many employers are making an extra effort to promote the importance of health and safety in the workplace. Here are three suggestions for employers to share with their remote workforce during GEHFM:

  • Get physical. Whether you encourage your team to take a walk during lunch, take standing breaks between meetings, or take the stairs, it is helpful to remind them to move during the day.
  • Eat well. Some organizations provide healthy snacks or gift employees water bottles to encourage them to hydrate. At Skillsoft, we created a Teams channel so employees can share healthy recipes.
  • Be thankful. Gratitude is an important part of mental wellness. At Skillsoft, employees are encouraged to share what they are thankful for during “Thankful Thursday,” when we call out work well done in company-wide Teams chats. We also use a platform called Kazoo to help our team recognize each other publicly for a job well done.

Organizations with highly successful wellness initiatives report the following outcomes:

  • 11% more revenue per employee
  • 1.8 fewer days absent per employee per year
  • 28% higher shareholder returns

Maybe that’s why so many organizations are incorporating comprehensive workplace wellness programs into their overall employee benefits packages.

No matter how you decide to support employees’ health and well-being this month (and every month, for that matter), know that Skillsoft is here for you as a trusted partner in compliance.