Working from home health & safety advice

This Guidance provides some tips and reminders to help ensure your health and safety while working from home. You are also encouraged to refer to your Department’s health and safety guidance and/or policies for more information and contact details for your Health and Safety Advisor.

Working from home

Although you may have previous experience of working from home, in these current circumstances things will likely be very different to before. This may be for example, because you are sharing the space with other family members or because you are now working at home all week rather than just occasionally or on specific days.

The guidance below provedes some tips and reminders to ensure your health and safety while working from home.

Work routine

Maintain boundaries between work and personal life. Set a schedule and stick to it. Set yourself start and finish times. Having clear guidelines for when to work and when to “call it a day” will help you maintain work life balance.

Workspace

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has advised that Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Risk Assessments do not need to be carried out while you are temporarily working at home because of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). You should nevertheless still take steps to minimise the DSE-related risks to your health when working at home. 

If possible, set aside a space in your home for you to work in. This space should have a desk/work surface, a supportive chair, suitable lighting and should be free from hazards eg trailing leads etc. A home office or simply using the kitchen or dining room table should suffice.

Tidy your space at the end of the day and put your laptop and any paperwork away in a secure place as this will discourage you from returning to your workstation later in the evening when your work day has finished.

Breaks

Break up long spells of DSE work with rest breaks or changes in activity (at least five minutes every hour). Try to get outside in your lunch break or before or after work while following guidance on social distancing ie at least two metres from others. Otherwise, make use of your garden if you have one or even just open your windows for some fresh air and a slight change of scenery.

Take your lunch at the same time as you normally do and have it away from your work area. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals and drink plenty of water.

Maintain good working posture

The illustration below shows good working posture.

Good working posture Be sure to:

  • work at a desk or table with adequate knee/foot clearance so that you can sit/stand close to your laptop
  • use a separate keyboard and mouse where possible
  • position the keyboard and mouse directly in front of you within easy reach and position your laptop so that the top of the screen is approximately level with your eye height (only do this if you have a separate keyboard and mouse)
  • use a box file or some books to raise your laptop
  • if your chair is too low, sit on a cushion to raise your seat height or if you have  an adjustable chair, use it 
  • when sitting, support the small of your back, relax your shoulders (not slumped, not elevated) and ensure that there is no pressure on the back of your knees
  • if standing (eg at a kitchen worktop), keep your legs, torso, neck and head approximately in line and vertical – don’t slouch, lean or twist to the side
  • avoid working with your laptop directly on your lap

If you are experiencing pain, or discomfort using DSE at home, reconsider how your workstation is set up. Seek advice from your manager or local Health and Safety Advisor if required.

General communication

You should do your best to:

  • maintain regular contact with your manager and colleagues
  • make telephone calls, where practical, instead of sending an e-mail. Also stand while talking on the phone
  • take part in conference calls you are invited to - an excellent way to maintain relationships
  • ensure all your contacts and colleagues are aware you are working from home

Fire safety

It is a particularly important time to prepare and practise a plan of action that will help you act quickly if there’s a fire in your home. Find out how to make an escape plan, including tips on making a bedtime fire safety check. For further details please see information available on NI Direct:

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