How to Work from Home Safely

Working from home - How to work from home safely

Many Australians who used to work full-time in an office, now work (at least part of the time) from home. And for a lot of us, it looks like that’s going to continue to some degree into 2022. Here are eight tips for how to work from home safely and effectively.

Working from home. It sounds so easy. No commuting, no peak hour, no office politics, more flexibility to manage your own time … but it’s often not quite as straightforward as people think. If you don’t have your home office set up correctly, you could be putting yourself and your family at risk. Here are some factors to think about to help you work from home safely and effectively. 

1) Set boundaries

This is one of the most important things to consider if you’re working from home. Remember, your aim is to work from home – not live at work. And that’s an important distinction. Because it’s important to keep balance in your life, especially when you don’t have colleagues around who you can easily chat to about any issues you may be facing.

2) Have a dedicated area for work

If you already have a home office or study that you can use to work from home, that’s ideal. Make sure you keep your work confined to that area and that you shut the door and turn off from work at the end of the day.

If you can’t set up a dedicated area, then treat it as you would a ‘hot desk’ in the office. Try to work with minimal files and equipment and pack your work materials away at the end of the day so that you (and the rest of your family) aren’t living with your office at the end of the dining room table 24/7.

It might seem like overkill to start with, but the five minutes you take at the beginning and end of the day will mean that you aren’t subconsciously thinking about work every time you walk past your laptop. The routine of setting up at the beginning of the day and packing up at night will help your brain differentiate ‘work’ time from ‘me’ or ‘family’ time.

3) Establish a routine

We’ve touched on the routine of setting up your desk and packing it away at night and how that seemingly insignificant step can have a big impact in reducing the stress associated with working from home. But what happens if you’re working in a study, and you don’t have that routine to tell your brain that now it’s time for work? Consider a walk around the block at the beginning and end of each day as a signal to your brain that you’re starting or finishing work. You’ll be surprised how much it can help reduce your stress levels.

4) Set rules for when you’re at work

Family members, especially children, can’t be expected to know your boundaries when you’re at work, unless you tell them. Set rules for when the kids can and can’t talk to you. If they’re at home while you’re working, make sure you take regular breaks to check in on them and to minimise interruptions when you least need them. We’ve all seen the YouTube videos of kids bursting in on their parent’s Zoom meeting and you don’t want to be the next Internet meme!

If you work in a room (such as a study or bedroom) consider putting a sign on the door or tying a scarf around the door handle to indicate when you absolutely can’t be disturbed (such as when you’re on a Zoom call). At other times, it’s easy to establish that when the door is closed, you’re working, and your family member (or flatmate) needs to knock on the door, if they really need to speak to you about something.

5) Keep a balance

Don’t neglect your other obligations though, especially if you have children at home. They need your attention and care as well, so be careful not to prioritise work over family, just because work is set up in the living room for now.

6) Set your workstation up properly

Work health and safety (WHS) regulations still apply even if you’re working from home. But as the person working from home, you also have a duty of care to provide a safe working environment. That means ensuring that wherever you’re working is a safe place to work and isn’t posing a risk to you or anyone else around you.

Check to see if your work has any guidelines or provides any support to help you work from home safely and effectively. Many workplaces have fact sheets which can give you guidelines on how to set up your work area ergonomically and some workplaces will let you take office equipment, such as your chair, home. Safe Work Australia has an online fact sheet which outlines the key tips for setting up your desk area at home. You can access it here.

Apart from the ergonomic factors to consider, also think about power cords and trip hazards. Make sure that you don’t have power cords stretching across corridors where they pose a risk to others in the household.

Home office - how to work from home safely

7) Think about your electrical safety

An important part of your duty of care is making sure that you provide a safe electrical environment. And although you may think your home is already a safe electrical environment, working from home puts different strains and loads on your electrical systems and equipment.

Testing and tagging

Consider getting your portable electrical appliances tested and tagged.  Or, if your workplace conducts regular testing and tagging, ask if you can have some of your home office appliances tested at the same time.

Items such as home printers often weren’t manufactured with the intention that they would be used full-time, so it’s good to get these items tested regularly to make sure that they are still safe to operate in your home.

Safety switches

Safety switches are mandatory in new buildings, but it’s worth getting your safety switches tested to make sure that you have safety switches on the right circuits. You might have set yourself up in a corner of the house that isn’t used often and not realise that you’re putting yourself at risk because the power point you’re plugging your equipment into isn’t covered by a safety switch.

Jim’s Test and Tag can help you out with all your electrical safety requirements. They can conduct a risk assessment of your home and perform all the required electrical safety tests including testing and tagging and safety switch testing. 

8) Think about emergency procedures

When you’re working from home, you’re at home a lot more so your risk of an emergency increases. Make sure your first aid kit is up to date and fit for purpose. And if you don’t have one at home, you need one! Jim’s Fire Safety provide first aid kits and can advise what first aid equipment you need at home.

It’s more important than ever to check your smoke alarms regularly. This should be done every six months. Check your smoke alarms when the clocks change for daylight saving and you’ll always remember.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended to be of a general nature only. We do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss or damage incurred as a result of reliance on it — please make your own enquiries.

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