Working from Home Policy in Australia
Regardless of the location where work takes place, the employer must care to ensure the mental and physical health and safety of the employees.
When deciding whether working from home is appropriate for one of the employees, the employer should consider the suitability of work activities, workflows and expectations, the surrounding environment, workstation set up, communication frequency, the mental health of the employee and safe working procedures and training requirements.
Just like in an office, employers are responsible for providing employees with the necessary tools to perform work.
Health & safety at home
Employers must work to minimise the risks of accidents for employees working from home in the following ways:
- Guide what a safe home office environment and workstation set up is and explain why employees should move and not be sedentary.
- Ask employees to learn about and comply with acceptable ergonomic practices, that are consistent with any workplace policies and procedures. Employers may ask employees to complete a workstation self-assessment checklist and return the responses back
- Maintain regular communication with employees
- Give information and support materials for mental health and well-being services
- Provide a work from home health & safety checklist
- Organise a virtual workstation assessment.
Employers may also facilitate an inspection of the employee’s home office environment to ensure it meets health and safety requirements.
Employers must also eliminate or minimise the psychological risks of working from home. This includes anything inherent in the work that causes stress. Some hazards include:
- Working in isolation, without a support network
- Low job control
- Poor working conditions, such as ergonomically wrong work station or high noise levels
Employees too have health and safety responsibilities in minimising risks at home, including:
- Follow the procedures in place about how work is performed
- Follow the instructions of usage of the equipment they are given
- Maintain a safe work environment, by designating a work area, clearing any furniture around it to ensure secure access, have adequate lighting and ventilation, repair any uneven surfaces and remove trip hazards
- Manage their in-house safety, such as maintaining electrical equipment and installing and maintaining smoke alarms
- Notify the employer about existing or potential risks and hazards
- Report any changes that may affect their health and safety when working from home
See Australian government's Work from Home Checklist for more information.
Workspace Guidelines in Australia
Employers must take all reasonable steps to ensure the employee’s workstation is correctly set up, safe, comfortable and easy to use to reduce potential injuries as indicated in the health and safety measures. In turn, employees must care for their health and safety and follow any reasonable policies or directions their employer gives them. They must inform employers of any work-related incidents or injuries that occur while working at home.
An appropriate workstation will include the following:
- Right level of illumination, both natural and artificial light sources should not create glare on the computer
- Sufficient lighting level for visual tasks to be completed without eye strain
- The right level of ventilation and thermal comfort
- Unobstructed exit path in case of emergencies, including electrical cords, uneven carpet, clutter
- Suitable storage for documents
Employers must ensure employees access their workplace entitlements, including breaks, standard hours and any agreed-to flexible work arrangements.
The employer should have general working conditions and work from home policies in place, including a policy aimed at preventing and limiting employment-related psychosocial pressure. When working from home, the employer must avoid the chances of employees experiencing excessive work pressure.
Recommendations for employees working from home:
- Take appropriate breaks every 30 minutes to ensure repetitive actions are not continued for long periods, and stand up at least once per hour
- Stretch and change posture often, and if possible, an alternate activity
- Check that you have a comfortable posture
- Don’t do any lifting, pushing, or carrying type task beyond the physical capacity
- Keep wrists in a neutral (straight) position—not bent up or down
- Sitting posture is upright or slightly reclined, maintaining slight hollow in the lower back
- Establish boundaries around work hours
- Schedule regular meetings and catch-ups with the team
- Go outdoors and exercise daily, if possible