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Nine out of 10 organizations plan to keep employees working remotely some or all of the time after the pandemic ends, according to a recent Canadian survey.* If a full-time or partial work-from-home model is in the future for some of your employees, now may be the time to establish a formal teleworking policy.
"When the pandemic began, many workplaces demonstrated great agility in moving employees to home offices," notes Stephen Shaw, WSPS' Director of Integrated Operations. "But it meant making decisions quickly. Going forward, we have an opportunity to think through what would work best in the long term, so that these employees are set up for success and employers can meet their obligations under the Canada Labour Code - Part II."
Section 124 of the CLC Part II states "employers shall ensure the health and safety at work of every person, employed by the employer is protected". Since the "work place" includes "any place where an employee is engaged in work for the employee's employer", this includes telework situations.
5 H&S considerations for your permanent teleworking policy
A teleworking policy serves as an agreement between employers and employees that clearly defines expectations and responsibilities. Build health and safety into your policy by defining an appropriate home office environment. Here are five possible considerations.
- Ergonomics - do your teleworkers have a proper work set-up? Ensure they and their supervisors understand ergonomic principles and how to eliminate hazards. Provide guidelines on how to create an ergonomically safe home office. Conduct virtual ergonomic assessments. Regularly ask these employees if they feel pain or discomfort.
- Electrical safety - is the wiring suitable to the job's electrical demands? Overloaded outlets and overused extension cords may create electrical hazards. Share these 10 home safety tips from the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) with all employees, not just your teleworkers.
- Emergency preparedness and response - does the home have a basic first aid kit, working fire extinguisher, smoke alarm(s) and carbon monoxide detector(s), emergency response procedures, and an evacuation plan? Offer first aid training. Encourage all your employees to assemble an emergency survival kit that will sustain them and their families for at least three days immediately following an emergency.
- Physical and psychological safety - could teleworking put a vulnerable employee at risk of living with an abuser 24/7? If your work place hasn't updated its work place harassment and violence prevention policy to include teleworking, start by conducting a teleworking harassment and violence risk assessment. Learn more from article: Take steps now to protect your teleworkers from domestic violence.
- Mental health - how can you help teleworkers stay engaged with the work place and colleagues, and not feel isolated? Have you set realistic workload expectations, and are you encouraging your teleworkers to protect their downtime so they can recharge? Set the right tone that positively impacts mental health when interacting with employees, and help them maintain positive mental health.
How WSPS can help
- Contact a health and safety consultant to help develop or assess a permanent teleworking policy.
- Our ergonomics specialists are available to conduct virtual office ergonomic assessments and provide recommendations for temporary home offices.
- Check out our collection of COVID-19 mental health resources.
- Explore our COVID-19 Hub for checklists, guidelines, and more. A selection of resources are available in French.
* Liza Agrba, "Leadership Lessons from the Worst Year Ever," Report on Business magazine, March 2021, p. 45; www.theglobeandmail.com/business/rob-magazine/article-download-the-march-2021-edition-of-report-on-business-magazine