Coronavirus (COVID-19), HR Management & Compliance

How HR Can Do Home Risk Assessments

While the trend of working from home has risen drastically in recent years, recent events have seen an unparalleled shift in remote work. Indeed, working from home has many benefits, including a healthy work/life balance, reduced to no commute, and better efficiency and flexibility. However, one major concern that often gets little attention involves ensuring the safety and well-being of your remote workforce.

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Every employer should treat its employees equally, no matter if they’re at the office or working from home and backed by the law in several countries. The situation in the United States is complex, with employers being responsible for the health and safety of their workers, including those working from home.

Measuring the risk factor associated with employees working from an office is easy compared with measuring that of employees working from home. It therefore becomes important for an HR manager to devise a proper plan for assessing the health and safety of the company’s remote workforce.

What Is a Home Risk Assessment?

A home risk assessment is like a template that enables HR managers to ensure employees’ homes are suitable for carrying out their duties and helps establish whether employees require any assistance from the employer.

The Role of HR

HR managers play a vital role in everything related to an organization’s employees. They are the bridge that connects employers to their workforce.

Similarly, carrying out an assessment also falls within HR’s domain. It is the department’s responsibility to set the terms and conditions that govern the workforce. HR also needs to make sure the outcomes of the assessment remain confidential and communicate with employees on a one-to-one basis. Doing this will boost employees’ confidence in their HR manager and help them comply with the guidelines for better results.

While conducting the assessment, HR must keep in mind all the possible hazards that might negatively impact the employees working from home. Overall, HR must make sure their space is suitable for carrying out their duties without any problems. To aid in this task, HR must create an effective work-from-home safety guide.

Here are some check-in points for an at-home risk assessment:

  • Employees are adhering to personal safety protocols.
  • There’s adequate space, and it’s free from distractions (or they’re at least minimized).
  • There are nearby healthcare facilities.
  • Their connectivity options are satisfactory in terms of keeping up with teams in real time.
  • See if employees have any special requests for enhancing the at-home work experience.

Additional Considerations

You may believe that your employees working from home are less likely to face issues that may adversely affect their performance. However, they are not free from threats. Actually, your employees are more prone to hazards when operating from home. Here are certain things to consider when assessing your employees’ home working environment.

  1. Employees’ home workstations meet safety requirements and are comfortable, with ample lighting and ventilation for fresh air.
  2. The equipment used by employees is working well and complies with energy-saving norms.
  3. Workstation amenities are well-placed and can be reached easily when required. Also, if employees are using a monitor, make sure it is positioned properly to avoid any reflection or glare that might cause eyestrain.
  4. Employees should maintain a correct sitting posture to avoid fatigue when working for long periods of time.
  5. Decrease the number of items that would require manual handling to avoid the risk of physical injury. Employees must also be educated on handling and storing items properly.
  6. The area near employees’ workstations should be inspected for possible trip hazards like loose wires, slippery surfaces, or obstructions that might cause possible trip injuries.
  7. Identify electrical appliances with exposed wires near their workstations or around the house that can be fatal if employees accidentally come in contact with them.
  8. Employees’ homes should be assessed for the possibility of structural damage due to inappropriate house planning or natural calamities.
  9. Identify the risk of fire, and make sure employees don’t place flammable components over their workstation. Also, check for smoke detectors and emergency fire exits.
  10. Ensure proper arrangements are in place for maintaining communication with other employees to mitigate feelings of isolation. This is also important in maintaining employees’ mental health and ensuring better productivity.

How Should You Proceed with Such an Assessment?

Every HR manager has his or her own unique way of blending with the workforce and gaining their trust to boost morale. In the same way, HR managers can choose their own way of proceeding with a home risk assessment based on various factors like the size of the workforce, their location, years of experience working from home, and so on.

However, here are a few tips to help HR leaders streamline the process of an employee home risk assessment.

  • Prepare a questionnaire for your remote employees to fill out that provides HR with detailed information.
  • Segregate the questionnaires based on similarity, which will make it easier to prioritize employees who need immediate attention.
  • Reengage your employees via voice or video call to let them know what they should do to stay safe and healthy while working from home.
  • You can also ask them to send a short video of their workstation after a few days to see if they have implemented your suggestions or are facing any issues while trying to abide by the organization’s house-safety norms.
  • Properly document all responses, and use them to set future goals to ensure better safety for those opting to work from home.

Final Words

The work-from-home trend is set to rise even more, given the current circumstances. With most countries in lockdown, employers are left with no choice but to allow their employees to operate from home.

At the same time, it is also important to implement employee engagement measures to keep your workforce motivated and satisfied. Ensuring employee well-being and safety is also a part of these measures. Therefore, employers must set up certain safety protocols for their workforce, whether working at the office or from home, and assessments like this are a good way to do so.

Anjan Pathak is cofounder and CTO at Vantage Circle, an employee engagement platform. He is an HR technology enthusiast and is very passionate about employee wellness, as well as actively participates in the growth of corporate culture.