Still working from home? What you need to know

The number of employees working from home – and expecting to have flexible work options in the future – has been accelerated by the pandemic.

For many, being forced to adjust to working from home has been a challenge. But it has also given them a new perspective on what remote work – even for a day or two during the workweek – could look like for them. 

When working from home, employees have found they can often achieve a better work-life balance. Not to mention, the added benefit of avoiding the morning rush and a long commute into the office.

What are the implications for businesses though and how do they need to change to accommodate this shift?

Should your employees have the option to work from home?

An employer will usually set up an office space in a way that protects the physical and emotional health of employees. When employees work from home, this can’t necessarily be done to the same extent. There are different risks involved, which means reviewing your insurance coverage is a must.

Under fair work arrangements, some Australian employees can only be denied flexible work options if their employer has reasonable business grounds. Even if it is not mandatory, work from home can still be a viable option that greatly benefits your business.

  • Stanford University research endorses the idea employees who work from home are often more productive than when they’re working in the office – even though they are unsupervised. They are also said to be happier and this makes them less likely to quit.
  • Flexible work arrangements demonstrate that as an employer you are not only receptive to the needs of your employees, but that you also have trust in them and their capabilities. This breeds greater satisfaction and loyalty.

In some situations though, work from home isn’t a plausible option, whether that’s because of the nature of the employee’s work or the actual individual. This is why it’s important to take into account factors like:

  • The level of supervision required
  • The cost of setting up a safe work environment in the employee’s home
  • The amount of teamwork their role requires and whether it can be done remotely
  • If the employee has demonstrated their ability to work autonomously
  • If the employee’s role requires access to equipment that could not be transported to their home for use

Health concerns

When you think about employees working from home, occupational health and safety is often one of the first concerns to come to mind. As an employer, even when staff work remotely, you bear the same responsibility as in the office.

Before employees start working from home, meeting OHS standards needs to be a top priority. This starts with completing a safety assessment, where you look at the environments staff work in and consider manual tasks they carry out, tripping and falling hazards, electrical safety and similar. The findings then form the basis of a formal agreement with the employee that details preventative measures.

When employees work from home, it can become more difficult for employers to gauge their emotional wellbeing. Signs that a staff member is struggling with their workload, workplace bullying, job satisfaction or stress may be less obvious when you’re not regularly seeing them throughout the work day.

Property and equipment

Typical business equipment – like mobiles and laptops – is usually covered under general property insurance. It can be useful to keep track of the equipment each employee has with an inventory. There are some caveats to take into account:

  • Monetary limits in your policy
  • An employee’s property isn’t usually covered by your business insurance
  • Loss of company information on an employee’s personal computer often isn’t covered
  • If damage is caused to an employee’s home or property while they are working, this likely won’t be covered by your business insurance

Insurance considerations

There are three main insurance considerations when employees are working from home.

  • Injury to an employee: even when employees aren’t working on your premises, as an employer you need to provide a safe work environment. Under workers compensation insurance, physical or psychological injury are both claimable. This insurance is compulsory, but you need to ensure your level of cover is suitable.
  • Injury to a customer: as a part of their role, some employees continue to see customers while working from home. If this is the case, you need the required level of public liability insurance. While it’s compulsory, policies will vary and you need to ensure you have the appropriate level of cover for your situation.
  • Safety of property and equipment

For more information, or if this article has brought up any queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on 03 9809 1532.

DISCLAIMER

Conditions apply for each policy and the information expected from you for a policy to trigger. Coverage may differ based on specific clauses in individual policies. Please ask your broker to explain the additional benefits and exclusions pertaining to your policy.

The information provided is general advice only and does not take account of your personal circumstances or needs. Please refer to our financial services guide which contains details of our services and how we are remunerated.