Welfare risks of hybrid work "being ignored"

Almost half of UK companies questioned in a new survey have still not devised policies aimed at ensuring the health and wellbeing of staff now working partly from home.

Woman in hybrid work place sharing her time between an office and working from home remotely
The unprecedented surge in hybrid working since the outbreak of Covid-19 two years ago poses a a real challenge to managements in many sectors of the economy, according to EcoOnline, a technology platform for safer workplaces.

Safety training and risk assessment

In a survey of health and safety professionals at 447 companies, the 'Hybrid Working Study' found that only 52% were providing safety training for staff based partly at home.And while almost six out of ten firms said they were planning to conduct new risk assessments for their hybrid teams, 43% admitted they had no such plans."Against the context of a shifting societal attitude towards the workplace, and a sharp increase in hybrid working models, these figures highlight how businesses must act now to adequately protect workforces in a more fluid and remote office environment," said EcoOnline in a statement."This means organisations will have to adapt their approach to accommodate for each individual. For most organisations this home-working and hybrid model will mean a comprehensive risk assessment."

How would companies conduct hybrid working/employee risk assessments?

Looking at how these assessments would be conducted, the survey found that half of firms would ask employees to fill out a risk-assessment form, while 37% would continue to use their existing approaches along with an in-office assessment.Only 4% said they would be sending health and safety professionals to their employees' homes for in-person reviews, while 3% planned online video assessments with HR managers or a safety practitioner.
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Employer duty of care to staff extends to the "at-home part" of employees' working lives

Dr Catherine Jordan, health and safety product specialist at EcoOnline, said, “Employers need to remember that their duty of care for their people’s health, safety and wellbeing extends to the at-home part of their working lives."Managing the blend of home and office working requires planning and communication. Risk assessment is an important precursor to any new working arrangement, but it is only one consideration in the successful management of worker safety, health and wellbeing."Dr Jordan said that while the experience of the past two years had been "seminal", it would only partly prepare workers and organisations for the changes still to come.She added, “Those businesses most likely to thrive in a hybrid working future will have risk-assessed the implications of a hybrid work model and the suitability of individuals’ homes for extended working; provided the right equipment and provided training in the planned approach; and updated procedures and guidance to managing the safety, health and welfare of all in the new and changing world of work.”The research found that, when it came to risk assessment, 84% of respondents highlighted stress from factors such as overwork or isolation.

Hybrid work breakdown

A similar percentage of firms said they expected they would continue to have a proportion of hybrid workers in the future, with almost a third saying that more than 50% of their workforce would work partly from home.On the other hand, 15% of respondents said they would have no hybrid workers, while about a fifth reported that less than 10% of their their staff would be splitting their working life between home and the office.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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