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What issues do I need to consider before starting to work from home?
The challenges that homeworkers face vary according to the type of work they do, and the amount of time they spend away from the office. For someone doing largely desk-based work in front of a computer screen at home, among the issues to consider are:
- How will my hours be recorded?
- How will I make sure I differentiate clearly between work and home time?
- What health and safety arrangements and adjustments will need to be made?
- How will I make sure I take regular breaks? Do I understand the dangers of, for example, repetitive strain injury?
- What furniture, equipment, computer and communications will I need, and who will provide and maintain them and keep them up to date?
- What are the issues related to technical systems (e.g. remote access to company databases and applications)? Is it possible to retain the same level of convenience?
- How will I ensure information security at home? How will documents and files be sent to me?
- What are the arrangements for my expenses and allowances (e.g. for home heating, lighting, broadband)? Will my additional travel expenses system change?
- Are there any taxation implications? Can I claim for buying items I need for work?
- How will this impact on my relationship with my firm’s Human Resources provision? Will it change my access to recruitment, training and career progression?
- What level of personal support will I receive? For example, will there be measures to ensure I don’t become isolated?
- If you are union member, what steps should you take to make sure you stay in touch with fellow members at work even though you don’t see them day to day, and to make sure you can still find ways to discuss issues and organise collectively?
Some workers use their home as a base, and their work consists in moving between the premises of different clients. These are often called 'mobile workers'. Examples include some engineers and technicians, and community-based care workers. These workers work 'from home' as opposed to 'at home', and although they share some of the same concerns as workers who are desk-based, they also have important issues to consider, for example, working time, rest breaks, National Minimum Wage rights and concerns over monitoring and surveillance – for example vehicle tracking.
Working from home is not without risks. A new study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Working anytime anywhere, the effects on the world of work, has found that working remotely can lead to insomnia and raised levels of stress.