Key Health and Safety Considerations When Designing a WFA Policy

A guest post, written by Georgia Feldmanis, Content Lead at Hofy

19th May 2022

A one-size-fits-all approach to work simply won’t fit anymore. Employees want flexibility in how, when, and increasingly, where they work. 

A year ago, offering a hybrid office/home working arrangement may have been sufficient for talent desiring location flexibility. But expectations have evolved. Many companies hoping to attract the best talent are now facilitating even greater freedom of location through WFA (work from anywhere) policies.

More than 800,000 visited Airbnb’s careers page after CEO Brian Chesky announced a design to enable employees to “live and work anywhere” at the end of April, proving the mass appeal of this perk.

However, facilitating WFA for your teams is far more complicated than just approving relocation or travel requests - especially when it comes to staying health and safety (H&S) compliant. 

Managing employee expectations

Above all, it’s important to set clear expectations with your teams about what work from anywhere means.

“Anywhere” implies many things: any venue (coffee shop, beach, bar etc.); any city; any country. Your employees may reasonably assume they can change their location as often as they like, on their own terms, without consulting you.

However, employment law relating to remote work requires a remote worker to have a fixed place of work. This is to ensure companies do not use the remote worker status to wriggle out of their compliance duties, including their H&S obligations.

What are an employer’s H&S obligations?

Broadly speaking, employers have a duty of care to their employees, whether home or office-based, to provide a safe working environment. 

The extent of an employer’s responsibilities will vary by jurisdiction, ranging from reimbursing home working equipment to providing, insuring and maintaining the entire set-up. 

Below we highlight some of the main considerations, but it’s important to consult local H&S regulations wherever you hire to ensure you’re meeting all your obligations.

Equipment standards

Local H&S authorities may prescribe minimum adjustability standards or feature requirements for home working equipment.

For example, under EU regulations:

  • Office chairs must be height adjustable;
  • The backrests on office chairs must be height- and tilt-adjustable;
  • Keyboards must tilt;
  • Any worker that requests a footrest is entitled to one (and so on).

So if your worker relocates, you must ensure:

  • Their current equipment meets local standards;
  • You replace any equipment that does not meet these standards.

Workstation assessments

In many regions, you are required to assess your employees’ workstations for health and safety risks.

For instance, in the UK, any employee that uses a laptop for more than an hour at a time must take a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) assessment, which assesses risks with the equipment, how it’s set up, and the employee’s work environment (lighting, temperature etc.).

Once you’ve identified where, and which assessments you need to administer, you need to find appropriate providers. The majority of assessments were designed when the world was predominantly office-based, which means they are unlikely to factor in potential home working nuances (e.g. use of home furniture).

So when designing your WFA policy:

  • Check local H&S regulations (in whichever regions your team members choose to work) for workstation assessment requirements; 
  • Source home-specific assessments to ensure you get an accurate picture of how your teams are working at home.

Equipment maintenance

In some regions, you’re also legally responsible for maintaining your employees’ home working equipment, or paying for any equipment upkeep (e.g. in Chile).

Even if you’re not under any legal obligation, it’s strongly advisable to factor equipment upkeep into your policy to boost employee wellbeing and uptime.

Faulty furniture increases the risk of musculoskeletal injury, which accounted for 28% of all work-related illnesses in the UK last year. Downtime could also be detrimental to your productivity. The average employee spends at least 22 minutes a day grappling with IT issues, amounting to two full salaried weeks per year.

The sort of things you need to factor into your policy:

  • What is the process for reporting issues? 
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  • What is the process for diagnosing issues? 
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  • What is the process for actioning repairs or replacements?
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  • What happens while equipment is in repairs?
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Design a  compliant WFA policy effortlessly with Hofy and Flexa

H&S compliance is complicated enough when your employees live and work in one region, let alone when you have to factor in multiple countries’ regulations. 

Flexa and Hofy’s partnership makes it effortless to facilitate WFA while staying H&S compliant, providing a brilliant employee experience and boosting talent retention worldwide.