Healthy habits, happy workers: the importance of health and well-being when working remotely

Healthy habits, happy workers: the importance of health and well-being when working remotely  Listing Image

As part of our focus on flexible working pitfalls, this week we’ll look at arguably the most important pitfall of all – health and wellbeing at work. For more information on this important subject, check out our Ambitions Travel Training ‘Managing Home Workers’ and ‘Successful Working From Home For Travel Employees’ courses, designed to get you and your team members working from home happily, effectively and safely. 

A case study

Ignoring homeworker health and well-being can have devastating, long-term consequences, as Ambition Travel Recruitment Owner and Founder Fi discovered first-hand.

Here Fi tells her story.

“Hindsight is a great thing, isn’t it? 

How often have you wished you could go back in time and do things differently to achieve a more positive outcome? 

At times, we’re our own worst enemies. Cutting corners, skipping out steps in a process, rushing or not listening to advice from others leads to poor results, accidents, or, in my case, degenerative disc disease. 

I was given the tools, advice, encouragement, and nagging to improve my work-life balance and workstation, and I ignored them all, chasing success and money.

Working from home gave me so many benefits, yet I didn’t take advantage of them. Instead, I found that time previously spent on my morning and evening commutes listening to the radio, catching up with family and friends on the phone, reading a book, thinking about the day ahead etc., were swapped with me hitting my desk early and staying there until late (usually working 7.30 – 18.30). Grabbing a snack or visiting the toilet were the only reasons I left my desk. Gone were the lunch breaks where I could get some fresh air, buy something for dinner, treat myself on payday to a new outfit or meet a friend.

As the achievements, bonuses and recommendations rolled in, little did I know that I was developing degenerative disc disease, which would lead to immense pain, and the first of what will most likely be three ACDF (anterior cervical disc fusion) operations to replace the worn discs in my neck with an ever-growing titanium cage and a lifetime ahead of good and bad days of pain in my neck, shoulders, arms and hands.”


Employer responsibility 

Homeworker health and well-being should be regarded as much more than a box-ticking exercise. As Fi’s experience demonstrates, ignoring this can lead to devastating and life-changing consequences. 

Most workplaces will conduct an office-based workstation assessment when a  new employee starts. Employees working from home are often excluded from this level of care. Working on a laptop from sofas, beds, or even a kitchen table can lead to long-term health problems, and that’s before accounting for the effects that lack of regular breaks, exercise, and socialising can have on mental health. 

Post-pandemic, employers now have the same health and safety responsibilities whether employees work from home or in the workplace. According to the government’s Health and Safety Assessment, employers should be taking a holistic approach and looking at three main areas:

Stress and mental health

Homeworkers will face the same mental health and stress issues as any other worker, possibly further exacerbated by social exclusion. Employees who are deprived of social contact through work can feel isolated or disconnected.

To help mitigate stress and mental health issues with homeworkers, employers can:

  • Take steps to keep homeworkers involved and reassured
  • Make sure that homeworkers are aware of the occupational support available
  • Keep regular contact
  • Speak about workloads, demands and training needs to avoid overwhelm
  • Encourage homeworkers to take regular breaks and use their annual leave 

Correct and safe use of computer equipment (DSE assessment)

Employees should be protected from the health and safety risks associated with working on a computer or laptop (display screen equipment or DSE) at home. As part of your DSE assessment, you should:

  • Make sure that home workers can achieve a comfortable, sustainable posture while working with DSE
  • Provide safe equipment that is up to the job
  • Provide any equipment required for employees to work safely from home - free of charge
  • Offer regular eye tests - free of charge 

Working environment and accidents 

As an employer, you must take reasonable steps to ensure your workers have a safe place to work when at home.

  • Ask employees to check company-provided electrical equipment for wear and tear and overload.
  • Ensure remote workers know what to do and whom to contact in the case of an emergency. You should have an emergency contact for all employees.
  • Make sure employees know how to report relevant work-related accidents that happen at home. 

The bottom line  

Employers should be having conversations with their employees about their arrangements. You might find that some employees do not have an appropriate place to work and may prefer to come into the workplace more often for their well-being, mental health or a variety of other reasons.  

We offer FREE eLearning essential soft skills courses, created by travel industry experts featuring this subject and many more.

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