Skip to main content
Employee Working From Home

Companies all over the globe are actively working to determine their next steps in terms of office staff. While some companies have chosen to reopen, others are delaying until a future date and there are some that may never go back into a traditional office. It is certain that everyone is taking a hard look at the traditional office setting to determine what will work best for their organization. As we begin to pivot from reacting to the pandemic to being proactive, some employees may be switching from temporary home workers to permanent home workers. This often means that a different set of regulations will come into play. It’s not a simple switch of sending the employee home with a laptop. To start here are a few steps to consider to stay compliant, reduce liabilities, and set up your employee and organization for success.

  1. Correctly classify your workers and set up a remote work agreement or policy
  2. Accommodate any regulations locally or within specific industries for home workers
  3. Set up safe work environments, this includes considerations like ergonomics, equipment and IT security for remote work
  4. Consider fair employment and ethics in looking at salary and career development plans for home workers

Here are some insights from some of our global Associates within Inogen Alliance that highlight what impacts a transition to permanent home worker might be in different countries from our own global Health & Safety Working group.

 

Marta Sánchez, HPC, Spain

Marta Sanchez

1. Have there been any significant changes to Work from Home regulations in the last 12-months?

Spain is a country with statutory definitions and specific legislation on the use of remote working/telework. The Royal Decree-law 28/2020, September 22nd on remote working was approved in September 2020 and totally repealed in July 2021 by Law 10/2021, July 9th on remote working with no relevant changes. The main aspects are:

  • The law regulates the right to disconnect and specific OSH aspects (ergonomic, psychosocial, and organizational aspects like the distribution of working time, limitation of availability, and breaks).
  • It is required to perform a risk assessment of the space used for telework and to inform the employee of the risks existing in their place of telework. To do so, the company (or the occupational H&S services) may visit the place of work but only with the permission of the teleworker if they work from home. If permission is not granted, a risk assessment should be performed on the basis of the information collected from the teleworker. The employer must also take protective measures to support particularly vulnerable employees, such as pregnant employees.
  • In addition, the employer must reimburse costs associated with telework (internet connection and communication, materials, etc.).
2. In your country, do you see companies allowing work from home or hybrid working to continue for the long term?

It depends on the company sector and type of company. Large multinational companies seem to lead working from home or hybrid working to continue for the long term. In 2019, employees working from home were 4.8%, one of the lowest rates in Europe. In September 2020 it exceeded 16% -with higher peaks in the months of confinement - and at the end of the year, there were 2.8 million people working at home, when in 2019 there were just 1.2 million. But the reality is that in 2021 work at home has been declining. In the first quarter of the year, it fell to around 11%, going from more than 3 million teleworkers at the end of 2020 to 2.1 million. Eight out of ten companies have again required presence in workplaces with the return of the holidays, which indicates that working at home numbers in 2020 was an unusual situation.

3. What do you see as the biggest risk for employers when managing their work from home employees?

The risk of not respecting the fundamental rights of workers, in particular the right to privacy within the workplace, when they carry out the surveillance and control of remote workers to verify that they comply with their labor obligations.

4. As an EHS professional, what would be one tool/equipment/general recommendation you would have for work from home employees to improve their working environment?

The risk assessment is the main tool even if the information is collected only from the teleworker. MSD risks and psychosocial risks. Feeling of isolation, stress due to worktime sometimes extended have been identified as part of the main risks and the identification of the risks and monitoring of the prevention measures is not easy when the information is collected from the teleworker. For this reason, improving the H&S training is my main recommendation using smart training tools.

 

Ivan Angel, CAO Consultores, Colombia  

Ivan Angel

1. Have there been any significant changes to Work from Home regulations in the last 12-months? If yes, would you give a 3 sentence synopsis?

In Colombia we had a teleworking regulation since 2008: Law 1221 of 2008: It refers to the norms that regulate telework in Colombia and gives the classification of teleworkers, which is regulated by decree 884 of 2012.

Afterward, due to the pandemic measures appears Law 2088 of 2021 which regulates work at home (different from the figure of teleworking in Colombia). This way of working is supposed to be temporary, occasional, and exceptional, which is one of the differences with teleworking.

Very recently, in August 2021 appears Law 2121 of 2021, which talks about remote working (not teleworking or work at home). We are still trying to understand the differences with previous regulations.

2. If there haven’t been any changes, do you anticipate changes to regulations to respond to a larger group of work from home employees?

Expected changes have already taken place, no new regulations or amendments are expected now.

3. In your country, do you see companies allowing work from home or hybrid working to continue for the long term?

Yes, especially tech-based companies, consulting companies, etc. Working from home was already part of our regulation since 2014 and it was applied by many companies legally since then.

4. What do you see as the biggest risk for employers when managing their work from home employees?

From a legal perspective, I would say the potential accidents because the company can´t control all the working environments at home, as they could in their own offices.

Mental health is also an important issue. Excess of work is always a common problem and a permanent complaint in Colombia.

5. As an EHS professional, what would be one tool/equipment/general recommendation you would have for work from home employees to improve their working environment?

Identify the risks in their homes and provide a subsidy to the employees to mitigate the risks (buy equipment). Use the psychosocial helpline and have a support program for employees related to their mental health and health habits. What we have seen is that employees at home tend to disregard their eating habits and exercise.

 

Tony F Campbell, Pacific Risk Advisors, Thailand

Anthony Campbell

1. If there haven’t been any changes, do you anticipate changes to regulations to respond to a larger group of work from home employees?  

Work from Home (WFH) regulations are not expected to change in the near future. Because there presently is not much regulatory framework. Workers from service industries (e.g. office-based workers) are not the majority of the workforce in Thailand. Most workers are in more intensive labor-areas including manufacturing/industry, agricultural sector activities (the largest %), and tourism and tourism-sector industries. These are all basically not WFH employees.

2. In your country, do you see companies allowing work from home or hybrid working to continue for the long term? 

Yes for multinational companies with services-based business activities; but No for all others (e.g. many or most Thai businesses) - unless it is specifically impacted by Covid (e.g. retail shops and a range of hotels and restaurants/eateries are closed or severely restricted e.g. no dine-in customers).  Many SMEs and small businesses are doing whatever they can to get by, including take-out and delivery; and some specific manufacturing activities that can get outsourced, or include work at home. And these kinds of hybrid operations will have to continue until the Government gives clear direction or rescinds particular requirements or restrictions.

3. What do you see as the biggest risk for employers when managing their work from home employees?

Health & safety issues (e.g. inappropriate working environment at home, ergonomics issues, related incidents, or injuries from home) – as the Thai regulations do not cover H&S for WFH employees. Another major impact is the economic impact of remote work. There are extra expenses incurred by working from home such as costs for internet, electricity, phone calls, or needing extra tool/equipment/furniture, etc. Without a clear direction or framework of regulation, employees may be unavoidably absorbing these extra costs. Note many of the industrial operations subsidize worker meals, so if a particular facility is restricted or not in operation, that worker(s) has to buy a meal.

4. As an EHS professional, what would be one tool/equipment/general recommendation you would have for work from home employees to improve their working environment 

My initial thought would be how to best replicate the office or ‘work environment’ at home. We all are so accustomed to our office space and office routine. Now we have been working at home for 2+ years, which is a very different environment: getting and keeping the focus to work a regular day; or balancing the kids at home. It seems everyone was really “invested” in both Zoom-type communications, and this WFH isolation.  I personally think that is terrible for personal development, so in the future that face-time or real-time communication and interaction with colleagues and clients has to somehow get back into a ‘norm’ setting. Companies should remain open for options on whether their employees want to work at home, work on flex time, or work in the office in the future. They should offer tools/equipment for those choosing to remain as WFH, and make sure their working environment at home is safe/suitable for a long-term work scenario. The open question of course is whether or not this mode of working will be effective and efficient. I do think a hybrid scope and scale of the working environment is the future. 

Inogen Alliance is a global network made up of dozens of independent local businesses and over 5,000 consultants around the world who can help make your project a success. Our Associates collaborate closely to serve multinational corporations, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations, and we share knowledge and industry experience to provide the highest quality service to our clients. If you want to learn more about how you can work with Inogen Alliance, you can explore our Associates on this webpage or Contact Us. Watch for more News & Blog updates here and follow us on LinkedIn.