Corporate Work Health Australia is seeing an increasing trend in workplaces adopting a hybrid office and homework model in a more permanent manner. There are many benefits for both the employee and company when it comes to adopting a hybrid work model. However this change also brings about new hazards and risks that a business must consider when it comes to worker health and wellbeing.
So what are the benefits for both the employee and company?
For employees, obvious benefits include increased personal time due to reduced travel time to and from work, as well as increased savings due to reduced costs associated with travelling to and from home and the office. At present the cost of working from home is hard to calculate, but one must consider increased costs associated with energy use at home as well as internet connection and setting oneself up at home. The hybrid model of 3:2 office/home or 2:3 home/office also offers the employees the ability to plan their work week so that they can work collaboratively when in the office and then allocate independent work whilst at home. Whilst not all job roles within businesses will work well with a hybrid model, many have shown they can achieve similar productive outcomes compared to when they were working in the office 5 days per week.
For businesses the positives include improved wellbeing of workers, reduced illness and sickness and also a possibility of reducing overheads associated with not needing as much office space. Many businesses have been pro active in supplying their workers with the appropriate work tools or allocated a dollar amount as a once off or each year for the worker so that they can set themselves up at home appropriately.
So what are the challenges with a hybrid work model?
For the employee the hybrid work model may not actually suit that particular individual and their job role. There are many workers who enjoy being in the office 5 days a week because it helps them separate home and work lives, as well as offers them the opportunity to mix with colleagues whilst at work and before or after. Some workers are also showing to be working from home after 2 to 3 years in what is less than optimal ergonomics. Workers who work the majority of their week from home from a dining table and chair not fit for purpose are likely to be at an increased risk of developing musculoskeletal aches and pains.
For the employer, the hybrid model has presented many challenges. Initially it was having workers undertake their job from home and all the logistics that go with this. At the start of COVID everyone was sent home and told to work from home. Some businesses who had already adopted an agile workplace or hybrid work model settled into this well. Whereas other businesses that were totally reliant on workers being in the office struggled. Simple things like having workers access the server and supplying them with appropriate equipment to undertake their work tasks was a big challenge. Generally we observed over the first 6-12 months, workplaces had evolved their practices and started to develop and create working from policies and procedures as well as implementing systems to assist in the OHS risk management process and ensure workers were being productive, but also being looked after from a wellbeing perspective.
What can a business do to ensure they are looking after their workers and also minimising the risk of workers developing aches and pains whilst working from home or in the office?
There are many things that a business should consider when it comes to managing risk for workers in a hybrid work model. Below we have created a list of some of the common questions and best practices we see amongst our many corporate clients.
Working from home considerations
- Does your business have a working from policy? If the answer is no, then it is time to start planning one.
- Does your business support workers with setting up a home office in their home? For many corporations this involves the provision of a laptop and accessories. For others it’s the provision of money to purchase company approved equipment.
- If workers cannot work from home or it is not in the best interests of their wellbeing, does your business support workers in allowing them to work from the office everyday? It is important to support all workers and for some, this means allowing them to work in the office.
- How does the business assess the home environment and home office workstation environment from a risk management point of view? Do they provide best practice ergonomics and home health and safety training to all staff? Do they undertake a workstation and home health and safety risk assessment of each worker? We would recommend all businesses develop a risk management approach to working from home. This should incorporate general training, developing policies and procedures about working from home and then undertaking individual ergonomic risk assessments.
- Continually review your working from home practices. Many businesses implemented many of these strategies discussed above long ago. If it has been more than 12 months since implementing all of these things or if your business has changed a lot, then now is time to review things.
Hybrid work model considerations
- Implementing an office work policy. For many offices they have moved away from anchored desks and implement a hot desk situation. Workers need to be educated on what this means and how best to adapt to these changes and utilise the new hybrid work models. So be sure to implement communication to the workforce across a variety of platforms.
- For businesses that have downsized, moved offices, transitioned to a hot desk or Flexi desk business model, be sure to run education sessions on how to book workstations, as well as educate workers on how to assess and set themselves up at the workstation each day.
- Implement individual risk assessments for all workers or for those who have been identified as workers who may benefit from one i.e. workers with a known history of musculoskeletal complaints, new workers, workers who require specific equipment due to any musculoskeletal condition or job role.
This blog post was written by occupational health osteopath and director of Corporate Work Health Australia. If your business is in the process of adopting a hybrid work model or has recently and you have questions about how to best assist and manage risk within your workplace, then touch base with us at email@example.com. We offer a range of office and home office ergonomic training and risk management solutions.
Find out more about us at www.corporateworkhealth.com.au