Still working from home? 5 top safety risks to avoid

The kids have gone back to school so working from home is now bliss. Right? Let's re-check in on the 5 top work-from-home risks.

Still working from home? 5 top safety risks to avoid

No longer fighting the children for bandwidth / space on the dining table or tripping over home-school craft activities? Yes, it's another 'new normal' to come to terms with.

We are 'kind-of' back to work. Some of us still working from home and some partly back in the office. This correspondent was certainly delighted to be back with her two big screens and external keyboard when back in the office. All sanitised of course.

Getting hold of some resources for working at home was a little challenging with backlogs of orders for office equipment - external monitors, keyboards posing difficulties etc. Hopefully supply chains are getting over the backlog. Which brings us to risk #1:

#1 Unsuitable workstation set up

By now your organisation has probably given you a checklist to go through, and requested you take some photos of yourself in your set up. Just in case they haven't or your *monitor and key board have just arrived * here are key pointers to consider.

Your workstation setup should have:

·      Desk with adequate leg space underneath

·      Most frequently used items within easy reach from a seated position

·      Chair with a stable base,lumbar support, and adjustable height, angle, and back rest

·      Feet flat on the floor so knees are bent at right angles

·      Computer monitor adjusted so top of screen is at or slightly lower than eye level

·      Keyboard positioned flat and placed directly and symmetrically in front

·      Adequate lighting for work tasks and no glare on monitor.

You might like to refer to Comcare’s working from home checklist when creating your workstation.

Of course the best set up in the world is only effective if you use it! This means don't check your email from the couch like our lovely model in the image above!

#2 Slips, trips and falls

Most homes have more things than workplaces do, and this can increase the risk of slips, trips, and falls. It’s important to maintain a clutter-free workspace and keep walking paths and doorways clear to avoid these incidents and related injuries.

Keep items on your desk to a minimum. Ideally, your desk should only have the essentials you need to perform work, free from rubbish and papers. We recommend keeping power cords organised and out of the way with ties.

If you have a floor rug or mat that gets caught, move it to a recreational area or put it away for now. Keep paperwork, boxes, and equipment out of the way to ensure walking paths and doorways are unobstructed.

Oh and when you are 'at work' at home, be sure you use the hand rail on the steps.

#3 Improper manual handling

It can be easy to get complacent when working from home. But you simply can’t afford to let your proper form and common sense slip when handling heavy or bulky items.

If your job requires you to lift, lower, push, pull, hold or carry items, save your back and perform these tasks while following the correct WHS procedures to prevent manual handling injuries.

#4 Overworking

It can be tough to find a healthy work-life balance when working from home. If you’re not careful, worktime can blur into personal time, and weekdays can blur into weekends. But working long hours and failing to take regular breaks can be detrimental to your physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Overworking doesn’t just lead to reduced productivity and burnout – it can also cause muscle aches,joint pain, eye strain, and other injuries.

Research shows workers feel more engaged and productive when they take their lunch break every day.

Prioritise your lunch break and regular breaks throughout the day to break up long periods of continuous activity. You should be taking a break from typing every 20-30 minutes,and standing up/stretching at least every hour.

If you’re struggling to switch off at the end of the day, try activating ‘do not disturb’ on your emails and work phone, and if your work setup is in a recreational area of the house (e.g. dining table), cover it with a sheet so you’re not tempted to jump back on during the night. Out of sight, out of mind.

#5 Loneliness and isolation

Many of us have now experienced weeks and months of working from home and the challenges it entails in being isolated from colleagues. Some people might be reveling in the peace, while others are struggling with the isolation.

Loneliness can seriously hinder employee morale and motivation, and can cause or exacerbate mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. But just because we’re following social distancing measures doesn’t mean we have to lose our human connections altogether.

We recommend maintaining daily communication with colleagues through phone, email, or video call. Pickup the phone for input, feedback, and brainstorming on collaborative tasks to get new ideas and keep your creative juices flowing. Reach out to see how your workmates are coping with a non-work-related email. However you keep in touch,you might find these daily check-ins boost your morale and motivation.

Beyond Blue has dedicated resources for supporting individuals through this coronavirus experience.

For organisations concerned about the mental health of their workers, Dr Angus Forbes from Phoenix Occupational Medicine has produced a webinar on this topic.

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