Please note that this appendix will be updated following Newcastle City Council guidelines in due course
Health & Safety guidance for homeworking during the COVID-19 pandemic
We are currently working in unprecedented times and much of the homeworking is a temporary fix to enable service delivery to continue so far as possible. Should this temporary homeworking continue for a long period of time, this advice will be reviewed, and where necessary, amended.
Aim: Reduce risks associated with homeworking and the use of display screen equipment at home so employees have a suitable short/medium term working environment.
- Read and follow the guidance below.
- Is your DSE (display screen equipment) setup as good as you can make it? If it is and you are still experiencing problems please discuss this with your manager. Bear in mind that with the best will in the world, the perfect set up or work environment may not be possible to achieve during this temporary homeworking period.
- Keep your temporary working environment (home) as safe as possible eg. remove tripping hazards.
- Be aware of potential electrical hazards. Check equipment before use and ensure there is no obvious damage to leads or plugs.
- Avoid potential fire hazards, unnecessary combustibles near ignition or heat sources such as from smoking. Check domestic smoke detectors are working at least monthly.
- Don’t overload sockets - check socket/extension cable use
- If you have any accidents/incidents whilst homeworking, inform your manager and report this on an HS20 incident form.
- Complete the temporary homeworking checklist and return it to your manager. In some circumstances homeworking may not be possible at this time, for example due to the nature of the work required or the need for specialist workstation equipment. This should be discussed with your manager.
- Please note that IT Services/Corporate Procurement may not be able to provide all the equipment that is requested. Where equipment can be provided, this will be on a case by case basis and where there is an agreed and identified need for it. Requests will be prioritised based on need.
- Managers must keep in touch with employees and ensure there is regular contact to check they are healthy and safe.
Lone working whilst homeworking
If you are a lone worker whilst at home (you are the only occupant of the house), ensure your manager is aware of this to enable them to keep in more regular contact (this is a joint responsibility between yourself and your manager).
Taking regular breaks
Good DSE Set up
- Movement and eye breaks every 20 minutes
- Get up and away from your workstation for at least 10 minutes every hour
Improvised Laptop/Tablet set up
- Break away from your equipment at least every 15 minutes for 5 minutes
- Swap and move your hands, shoulders and neck at least every 5 minutes
- Break from work at least every 15 minutes
- Your blink rate is ~66% less when using computers which can cause dry eyes, red or sore eyes and headaches
- Be aware when you aren’t blinking enough and try to blink more frequently
- Apply the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away.
Mental Health guidance for homeworking
Whilst working from home it’s important to maintain a good routine which will help support your mental health, here’s some hints and tips to follow:
Waking up - Although there may be extra time in bed without a commute, aim to wake up around the same time every day. This helps stabilise your internal clock and improve your sleep overall. You’ll feel less tired, more refreshed, and find it easier to concentrate throughout the day.
Getting ready - Keep to your established morning routine if you can – get ready, washed, and dressed as if you are going to the office. This will help you get into the mindset that you are at work.
Setting up your workspace - Try to set aside a work area separate from your sleeping area, as this will help to prepare you for work mode and make it easier to switch off at the end of the day. You don’t need a home office to do this – a small desk set up in a corner of your room, or a laptop at the end of the kitchen table can do the trick. Clear your work surface of clutter and set up your equipment following the above guidance
Take regular breaks - it can be difficult to tear yourself away from your laptop if you’re worried people might think you’re slacking off, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take breaks. Leave your desk for lunch and consider doing some kind of exercise in the house or as part of your one form of exercise per day outside of the house. You’ll return feeling refreshed and more productive for the rest of the day. Make sure you make time to make proper meals and drink water regularly, rather than snacking continuously throughout the day and then crashing in a sugar slump at 3pm.
Manage distractions - When you start working in a new environment (especially a very familiar one) it can be easy to let yourself get distracted. So proactively manage things which might interrupt your focus - keep them limited to short breaks in between chunks of focused work. A change of scene is all we need to give our brain a break, and it’s the perfect time to put a load of washing on or empty the dishwasher.
Look after yourself - As well as establishing your new work routine from home, create a new daily routine that prioritises looking after yourself. Spend time doing things you enjoy – this might include reading, cooking, other indoor hobbies or listening to the radio or watching TV programmes.
Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water and exercise regularly. It’s important to be aware of and avoid increasing habits that may not be helpful in the long term, like smoking and drinking. Keep your windows open to let in fresh air, get some natural sunlight if you can, or get outside into the garden.
Be realistic about what you can achieve, so that you and feel satisfied in what you get done, rather than feeling disappointed you didn’t do everything.
Manage the mental health of your team while remote working - If you are a manager, make sure you make time for social conversations. This will help to reduce feelings of isolation. You could set up virtual chats using Teams, Skype, Facetime – this is essential for staying connected as a team and for checking in on each other’s well-being. People can be more sensitive if they’re feeling isolated or anxious, so tailor your feedback and communications.
Communicate regularly and make sure you give constructive and positive feedback to help your team feel engaged and valued. Listen closely and read between the lines. Working remotely means you won’t always be able to gauge body language or tone to sense what people are thinking or feeling. Home in on what’s not being said and ask questions to clarify your interpretation. Set up one-to-ones using video conferencing so you can see someone’s face and pick up on facial cues.
Support a healthy work–life balance- Help your team avoid burnout and overworking by encouraging regular breaks and clear start and finish times for the working day. Encourage self-care and healthy habits, such as getting exercise, sleep and fresh air (if possible), and practising relaxation techniques like yoga and mindfulness. Trust your team to get on with their work but provide them with support and supervision. Set clear expectations, focusing on results rather than monitoring hours worked. Without trust, working relationships can deteriorate and well-being will suffer.
Temporary Homeworking Checklist
All employees who are required to undertake temporary homeworking should read and follow the above guidance, complete the temporary homeworking checklist and return it to their manager. Please note that IT Services/Procurement may not be able to provide all the equipment that is requested. Where equipment can be provided, this will be on a case by case basis and where there is an agreed and identified need for it. Requests will be prioritised based on need.