Fewer employees on site means less exposure to workplace risks - or does it?
This is an important question for employers to consider, especially for employers who struggle to keep OHS risks at bay. In this post, we’ll look at some of the pros and cons of having off-site employees.
Benefits of Having Employees Working Off-Site
Over the past decade or two, more and more employees have been working from home. With increasingly better communications, it’s easy to stay in contact with off-site employees, and many people find that they’re more productive at home. There are some tangible OHS benefits of having employees work off-site. Here are a few.
Studies have shown that people who work from home get sick less often, and a study published in the Society for Human Resource Management reveals that teleworkers are more productive, even when they’re sick. The study also showed that people who work from home typically get back to work sooner following surgery and other major medical issues.
Keeping viruses out of the office can make a big difference to the overall health and safety of your organisation. If your office has had problems with passing viruses around, asking a few workers to work from home may help alleviate the problem.
Results about stress and working off-site are mixed, but in general, research seems to show that those who work from home experience less stress in their jobs. Less stress can lead to fewer mental health problems in the workplace.
According to SafeWork Australia, work-related mental disorders (also called psychological injuries) have risen in recent years. Several of the cited causes of poor mental health in the workplace can be avoided completely by working off-site. These include bullying or harassment and workplace violence.
Disadvantages of Having Employees Working Off-Site
It’s tempting to just look at the advantages of a proposed solution, but it’s also important to look at the disadvantages of working off-site, from an OHS perspective.
Less Visibility into Employee Safety
When your employees are all working in the same place, it’s easy to keep an eye on their working conditions, their risk factors and their workplace well-being. When they’re working off-site, problems could develop and you wouldn’t know about them until a crisis hits.
Risks Associated with Being Alone
When your employees are on site, they can always use the “buddy system” if they feel their safety is in question. When workers are off-site by themselves, they don’t have this luxury. Employers can help to reduce risks by putting a check-in procedure in place and by providing training and education about how to avoid potentially dangerous situations.
No matter where your employees are, they’re always subject to some risks. Your job as their employers is to minimise those risks and stay current with regulations associated with your industry.
The decision about whether or not to allow some or all of your workers to complete their tasks off-site will depend on a large number of factors, including productivity, collaboration, office space, expense, health and safety, personal circumstances and more.
As you consider each case, think about how the employee’s health and safety will be affected. It’s also important to think about the overall health and safety of your organisation. For assistance with these decisions, consider using OHS software, which is aligned with best practice standards.