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Working from home temporarily - health, safety and wellbeing advice

This guidance is aimed at staff who are either fixed or flexible workers and are temporarily working from home during the existing COVID-19 outbreak. It is not intended as definitive guidance for designated home workers as this is a separate issue.

Working from home is a situation that doesn't require any significant additional equipment or structural alterations.

We don't expect staff who are working from home to take equipment such as chairs home to facilitate this. If you require specialist seating or other bulky equipment you would normally need in the office and you are not self-isolating then you should discuss this with your line manager so suitable arrangements can be put in place. This may well include organising a base in your workplace where you can socially isolate. 

There is no increased risk using display screen equipment (DSE) while working at home temporarily. If you are using a laptop you should consider using a separate monitor, keyboard and mouse where possible, so that you can achieve a more comfortable working position.

Getting up regularly and stretching can also help, as well as making sure you have a supportive seat and somewhere where you can concentrate away from distractions.

Her are some simple steps you can take when working from home.

Working with display screen equipment

Check your equipment before use for any visible faults (report any faults immediately to your line manager). If you spot any faults do not use the equipment.

Check the positioning and display of your laptop, computer screen and monitor (ensure that you are working on a table or similar surface and not on your lap. Ensure the monitor is the right height and that you aren’t bending your neck too far forwards or back to see the screen).

Check the positioning and suitability of your keyboard and mouse (have these in front of you close to your body to stop you from over-reaching). Ensure you are seated high enough so that your forearms are just above the horizontal position when you are typing or using a mouse.

Check the suitability of your chair. Ensure it is comfortable and supports your upper and lower back and is at the right height for you to type and use your mouse – see the previous point. Don’t use a chair that puts pressure on the back of your thighs as this can reduce blood flow.

To protect the laptop from overheating the laptop vents should not be obstructed, for example by textiles or files and so on.  Keeping the vents unobstructed will allow the internal fan to pull cool air in and expel hot air  keeping it in good working order.

When you have finished working for the day, store your equipment safely and securely to prevent damage and unauthorised access.

There is no increased risk using display screen equipment (DSE) while working at home temporarily. Getting up regularly and stretching can also help, as well as ensuring you have a supportive seat and somewhere where you can concentrate away from distractions. Where possible, if you are using a laptop, you should consider using a separate monitor, keyboard and mouse so that you can achieve a more comfortable working position, however this may not always be possible in the current situation. Please speak with your line manager if you have any concerns.

Posture and comfort

Break up long spells of DSE work with rest breaks or changes in activity that don’t involve DSE use (at least 5 minutes every hour). You should also get up and stretch every 25 to 30 minutes to maintain good circulation and relieve muscle fatigue.

Avoid awkward, static postures by regularly changing position and getting up to stretch and walk around.

Avoid eye fatigue by changing focus (look outside or at more distant objects regularly). Ensure your work area has a good supply of fresh air to reduce dry eyes and ensure the area is adequately lit, but avoid glare on your monitor as this can cause eye fatigue.

Working environment

Check that you have sufficient space on and around your desk or home work area so that you can sit and move around freely.

Where possible work in an area with minimal distractions so that you can concentrate on your work tasks (this will help reduce stress levels and help separate working and domestic time). 

Check that you have appropriate lighting for your home work area (Do you need a desk lamp? Can you adjust anything to improve natural lighting?). Make sure you don’t have glare on your monitor, reposition your equipment or use blinds and curtains as required to maintain optimum light levels. Glare can cause eye fatigue if experienced regularly or for prolonged periods.

Check that the temperature, humidity and ventilation of your home work area is comfortable for you. A well ventilated room will allow you to concentrate and will help ensure suitable humidity levels are maintained.

Are you able to safely walk between your work area and other parts of your home without risk of tripping or slipping? Consider where you place your laptop, computer screen and monitor cables to reduce the risk of you (and any family members and pets) tripping, falling and pulling on any cabling or equipment).

Your overall wellbeing

Ensure that you keep in regular contact with your manager and colleagues to keep abreast of any developments and reduce feelings of isolation. Agree a regular contact schedule and how this will be undertaken. Skype and telephone calls are a good way to keep in touch rather than just using email. Also remember frequent short calls can be as effective as long conversations as can 'non-work' conversations where you would normally catch up with others over a cuppa.

Make sure you differentiate between work and home activities and get into a routine wherever possible as this will help you balance the 2 roles. Start and close the day with a routine. We have extended the flexi bandwidth to allow you to fit your work hours around your home situation to try to reduce the potential conflicts between the 2. Devise and agree a routine that helps you do this.

Keep active and make sure that you move around regularly. It's common for people who are home-working to sit for longer periods that those in a workplace environment. Make sure you are getting good rest, eating well and try to find exercises which you can do from home. Your physical health is intertwined with your mental wellbeing. Something as simple as going for a walk while observing self-isolation principals can be extremely beneficial.

Look after your mental health and wellbeing – let your manager know if you are struggling. There is a lot of advice and support available that you can access. Try to keep yourself positive. If you feel you need to access the counselling service, you can self-refer by contacting the service on 01629 536954.

Despite the benefits mentioned above, please bear in mind that social media can also be incredibly destructive in passing on false or unsubstantiated claims which can be extremely worrying for staff.

Keeping your laptop safe and secure

Turn your laptop off to protect it from overheating in the padded, tight quarters of a laptop bag.

Keep your laptop in a purpose designed laptop bag, which will consist of essential padding to protect against damage.

When travelling by car, keep your laptop hidden and if you leave your car unattended, make sure that your laptop is stored safely in the boot out of sight.

General data security

We have a responsibility to ensure that person-identifiable information is held securely and that confidentiality is respected and safeguarded.

If you take sensitive paper records home you are responsible for the security of the information while it is in your possession. You must remember to:

  • remove and return records to their proper location in a secure container, preferably a lockable briefcase - loose bundles of paper, open-top carriers and plastic bags are not acceptable
  • lock papers away securely and treat them in the same way that personal valuables would be looked after
  • take all work-related personal information to your office for confidential disposal - never throw it in your household waste or recycling bins

Important things to remember when you're working away from the office

  • never leave equipment unattended and be aware of your surroundings
  • never lend your work equipment to anyone else
  • always encrypt mobile equipment
  • never tell anyone else your password

If you become aware of something that you think could be a potential risk to security or confidentiality, you must immediately report it to Derbyshire County Council employees - Service Desk Online.