6th January 2021
Following Boris Johnson’s announcement of a third national lockdown earlier this week, it looks as if many UK workers will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future. Crushing hopes that the workplace would be ‘back to normal’ in the new year.
The Government guidance is that those who are able to work from home, should do so, with many non-essential shops and businesses closed.
Our Employment Law Team share some useful and practical tips for those who face an extended period of home working to keep you motivated, comfortable and supported.
This is generally good practice for anyone working from home, but particularly if you will be based at home for the long haul. Having a dedicated place to work means that you can keep organised, come back to where you left off each morning, it avoids the risk of children or pets interfering with your paperwork or equipment and helps you determine boundaries between your work and home life. If you do not have a study or spare room to use as a home office, then you could look at setting up a small desk in a quiet space or sectioning off part of your dining table to only use for working.
Working from home does have some downsides and one of those is the inability to switch off at the end of the working day. Without physically leaving an office or commuting home it can be difficult for some to create a clear start and finish time. The temptation to carry on working or checking emails into the evening can create blurred lines. Picking up the odd call or putting in some extra hours may not be a bad thing when you occasionally work from home, however it can take its toll when this behaviour becomes habit over numerous weeks or months. Try to establish a good routine and ensure that you physically and mentally ‘shut down’ each evening.
If you have been working from home then you may have been quite comfortable with your dining table set up or box bedroom boardroom, but if you are going to be working from home through to Spring, then you may need to re-think. Investing in a more supportive office chair and suitable desk may help. Your employer is still responsible for your health & safety whilst working from home and should be carrying out a desk assessment or providing you with guidance on best practice. Speak to your employer to ensure that you have everything you need to work comfortably and safely from home. You may require additional back support, different lighting, a raised platform for your monitor or a wrist support. Do not suffer in silence at home.
It is surprising how immobile people working from home become. Working in an office may feel like a stationary occupation, however the short trips to the staff room and coffee machine, going up and down the stairs, commuting and taking a stroll at lunchtime do add towards your daily step count. Sitting still for prolonged periods of time can have negative impacts on your health. Try to exercise each day and take breaks to move around and stretch your legs throughout the day. This may have been easier and more desirable when working over lockdown in the warm, sunny weather, but employees working from home over the winter months may need to make a conscious effort to keep active.
Working alone for long periods can take its toll on your mental health. Particularly if you work in solitude without much interaction with colleagues or clients each day. You should have regular catch ups with your manager and/or peers, but if you do work alone on the whole then it may be worth joining one of the many support groups and online networking sessions to achieve some professional, social interaction each week. Speak to your employer if you are struggling and try to take time to do things that work to improve your wellbeing. Your employer still has a duty of care for staff who are working remotely, and they have an obligation to provide you with additional support and make any reasonable adjustments.
If you are facing months of working from home, then it is worth being aware of the expenses that you are entitled to claw back. The amounts are not large, but they do add up and every little helps if your household is under financial pressure due to Covid-19. You can claim tax relief on some of your bills if you have been required to work from home, including your phone used for business calls, gas and electricity. You can claim relief on any equipment you have purchased to help you work remotely, or if your employer has paid for the equipment you can claim back the tax. If you still have a company car that you are not using, you should speak to your employer about handing back the vehicle and keys to reduce your tax and NI liability.
It is really important for your working relationship to have regular communication with your line manager or employer. This interaction should be both ways and it can help to resolve any issues, keep you motivated, keep you updated with business plans, ensure your manager understands your workload and appreciates your successes. If you find that you are having issues working from home – be it personal matters or difficulties with your peers or workload then it is important to have direct lines of communication with your employer so that they can be raised and resolved.
Many people are working in tricky and turbulent times within their industries and unfortunately employers do not always get it right when it comes to managing and supporting their staff.
If you have come across issues with your employment whilst working from home and would like legal advice on how best to face them, then please get in touch with our Employment Law Team who will be happy to help assist you.
Call us on 01256 844888, email firstname.lastname@example.org or speak to our Live Chat Assistant, who is available at any time of day, including weekends.
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The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.
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