WITH the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak impacting the lives of millions of employees, including many who are not equipped to work from home for long periods of time, employers are burdened with ensuring that the health and safety of employees is being addressed in their new environments.

“Australians are being urged to work from home, in an effort to help limit the transmission of the disease, which is critical on all fronts,” said JESI CEO Joe Hoolahan.

“However, it’s the implication that comes with people working from home that are causing employers headaches, especially when they are not fully aware of their safety obligations.

“The onus on employers to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their employees that are now being forced to work from home is a logistical nightmare. Many companies are unaware of just how closely they are required to monitor their employees’ situation.”

Businesses are faced with compliance issues which require them to monitor their employees’ wellbeing and focus on the health and safety of the workers, even when they are working remotely and from home.

Model Workplace Health and Safety laws apply to businesses when employees must operate somewhere besides their usual workplace. Issues employers must consider include workstation set up and psychosocial risks. Psychosocial risks may include isolation, a diminished support network, fatigue, online harassment and domestic violence.

“It goes far beyond just checking in on your workers when they are working from home, and this is something that many employers just don’t realise,” said Mr Hoolahan.

What is being described as a once in a generation event, will continue to change the way we live our lives for the foreseeable future – at least the next six months according to many reports. As people switch to completing their work from a home environment, organisations must take extra care to fulfil their employee safety obligations, including to their mental health and wellbeing.

“There is a sense that operating from home takes the responsibility away from employers, but this is not correct. However, employers can’t really go to individual homes and assess the safety of the environment in which they work, so appropriate measures must be put in place.”

JESI Risk Assessments enable an employee to create a daily check-in process, log their home/work location and complete a risk assessment of their environment. Employers can access JESI and immediately see if their employees have checked-in safely.

Risk assessments are completed in two minutes and provide a sense of security to employers – knowing that employees are safe; and for employees – knowing that their organisation is still checking in on their wellbeing.

Working isolated at home is known to have substantial effects on mental wellbeing for many. Removal from the support networks that exist in typical working environments means that people are often less equipped to deal with personal issues. Loneliness and the inability to switch off from work are especially prevalent mental consequences for people working from home.

The consistent contact facilitated by JESI ensures that employers can be systematic in assessing their employees’ wellbeing. There is a fine line between invested care and remote micro-management, so organisations must strike a balance.

Daily check-ins are essential to the assessment of employee’s mental wellbeing. The ease of check-ins with JESI Risk Assessments is a key benefit – so much so it completely optimises the safety and wellbeing monitoring process.

SafeWork Australia’s recommendations for businesses whose employees work from home strongly endorse the use of risk assessments and regular check-ins. Specifically, it advocates:

  • Requiring workers to familiarise themselves with good ergonomic practices, and requiring them to comply with them, for example by referring to a self-assessment checklist,
  • Maintaining daily communication with employees through phone, email or Skype, and
  • Providing continued access to an employee assistance program and appointing a contact person in the business that workers can talk to about any concerns.

“Australia is going through changes that have never been experienced before. The shift from working on-site to at-home has significant effects on both the employee and the business, and navigating this transition is critical.”