Hybrid working has become increasingly dominant since returning to the workplace following the pandemic.
But what does it mean?
It's the term used for flexible working - when an employee splits their time between working in the office, working at home or even using a co-working space.
If you now employ hybrid workers where part of their time is spent working remotely, you still have a legal responsibility to ensure their health and safety whether they are working at home, the office or even using a co-working space.
DSE and Homeworking Assessments
The requirement to complete DSE workstation assessments in the office has now been in place for 30 years and they are just as important as ever in the new, post-pandemic world.
Employers still have a duty of care for employees, even if they're working at home. So, as well as the office DSE self-assessment, you should also ensure all homeworkers complete an indepth homeworking self-assessment (HA) which covers not just the workstation but the environment of the work area too.
Not everyone will have the luxury of a home office. It's important to learn about individuals' home setup so that measures can be introduced to make sure they are working safely and comfortably.
Any employee who works out of a co-working space should still complete a DSE workstation assessment based on the desk they use most regularly and/or highlight any notable issues with their working set-up, such as the permanent use of a laptop due to its portability.
As stated on the HSE website, 'the law says employers must arrange an eye test for display screen equipment (DSE) users if they ask for one and provide glasses if an employee needs them only for DSE use.’
To make this as simple and straightforward as possible some opticians provide employer eye care schemes which involve setting up an online account and issuing e-vouchers to employees who are classed as a DSE user.
If employees need to use a laptop, then there are a few tips to follow that can help both prevent and ease any aches and pains.
Ideally laptop users should have a separate screen and keyboard to enable them to adopt an upright posture, avoid leaning forward and sitting hunched over. If this isn’t possible then a separate keyboard with a laptop stand is sufficient. The screen should be approximately an arm’s length away from the user and the top of the screen at eye level.
Again, as is good practice, no matter where or how you and your employees are working, you should always remember to move regularly and take breaks throughout the working day.
It’s already been mentioned that it is important to take regular breaks during the day. Any posture, even good posture, can cause aches and pains if sat still for too long.
Microbreaks are small breaks of between 3 seconds and 2 minutes and should be taken often. Good, positive things to do during a microbreak include:
Looking away from the screen and focussing on something different which can help relax the eye muscles.
Changing activities such as:
A quick power walk around the block / garden / up and down stairs.
Making a drink or fetching a (healthy!) snack.
Stretching / exercising.
It’s good practice to promote the need for regular breaks as employees should be able to feel they can take them without the fear of reprimand or judgement.
As part of the DSE Regulations, employees should be trained in the use of DSE Equipment and it’s no different for working at a hot desk. All office staff should know how to set up a hotdesking workstation so that it fits their needs.
It is a good idea to put up an infographic/diagram at each hot desk – that way you can remind employees what adjustments they can make to ensure they are working comfortably.
Any employee who is provided with DSE equipment to help them manage a medical condition, such as a specialist chair should ideally have a dedicated workstation to ensure their equipment remains suitably set-up in order to meet their specific needs.
Portable Appliance Electrical Testing
PAT testing office equipment is regular practice (or at least it should be!) to ensure electrical equipment is deemed safe to use.
The safety of electrical equipment still applies when using electrical work equipment in the home which is provided by the employer.
How can you ensure the safety of your employees when they’re using electrical equipment at home? Developing policy and guidance which specifically requests employees conduct regular visual checks of the equipment prior to use is one way, together with identifying a suitable life cycle of equipment which will help to avoid significant deterioration. Requesting laptops, chargers, extension leads and other cables and connections are brought into the office and tested as part of the office PAT testing arrangements is an another practical solution.
Equipment for Home Working
As we have mentioned, as an employer, you still have the responsibility for ensuring your employees are working comfortably when at home. Introducing a homeworking self-assessment process is an effective method to help identify and manage any risks. If a homeworking assessment indicates any concerns, then it’s the employer’s responsibility to investigate further, and either supply suitable equipment or request that the employee returns to the office on a permanent basis.
It's not always possible for employees to have an office set-up at home; the important thing is to be able to work comfortably, and to take frequent breaks/changes of activity.
It’s good practice to give your hybrid / home-workers DSE information and training, which covers:
Equipment and setting it up correctly
Work routine and taking breaks
Identifying a contact for reporting aches and pain or issues with work setup.
First Aid and Fire Arrangements for the Office
A hybrid working arrangement will also require a review of first aiders and fire marshals to ensure there is full coverage whenever the office is open. It’s a legal requirement to conduct a first aid needs assessment which reviews the workplace risks, identifies individuals with any specific health conditions, proximity to the emergency services, type of first aid training required and the frequency of trained first aiders present in the workplace (full time/part time/hybrid/shift work/annual leave/sickness absence). All of this information will help to make an adequate assessment of the number of first aiders required.
Likewise the number of fire marshals will also need to be reviewed. It may be necessary to increase the number of marshals to cover absences easily. Suitable training should also be provided.
Developing policy and procedures which cover these considerations are an important part of managing hybrid working. If you need any support with developing these arrangements please get in touch.