Working from home has become ubiquitous since the first national lockdown. Consequently, remote working combined with an office presence may become more common place in working life after the pandemic. According to the ESRI (May 2020) working from home was not a common feature of working in Ireland, however the pandemic has influenced this enormously. The effect of remote working in the last year has been so significant that the government has published a National Remote Working Strategy (Jan 2021) for the roll out of remote working in a post pandemic Ireland. However, according to the Gensler return to work survey (2020), there are many workers who would also like to return to the office which would suggest that future working environments may be a combination of remote working and office occupancy, which is often referred to as a hybrid model.
The results of remote working have surprised some employers as productivity has been maintained or improved while their teams worked from home. The positive effects of remote working have become apparent with the elimination of commutes and that there are fewer expenses such as transport or childcare etc. Consequently, the ongoing discussion and debate on the permanency of remote working has many employers considering the long-term implications. Additionally, the necessity of remote working has seen organisations prioritising and adapting to technology much quicker. This has meant that employers now must ensure that an employee’s remote working space is suitable and consider its safety and appropriateness for work.
Remote working during the pandemic while bringing many positive elements is not without its challenges for both employers and employees. Challenges that have been highlighted include managers realising that managing employees remotely requires a different approach compared to when they are in the office. The consequence of these differences has led to some employees feeling micromanaged and untrusted by their managers (HBR, July 2020).
Other issues that have emerged include the boundaries between our home and work lives becoming blurred. Some workers find that they take fewer breaks or return to the laptop later in the evening to finish an email or complete a task. Although it is laudable that a worker is committed to completing work, overworking and burnout have become an issue during the pandemic (HBR, April 2020.) Transitioning suddenly to remote working has resulted in a need for employers to provide guidance to ensure that a home workplace is as safe and productive as possible during these challenging times.
Although assessments are carried out on a case-by-case basis, at Acacia we encounter a variety of issues. Occasionally it becomes apparent when our EH&S specialist carries out a remote DSE (Display Screen Equipment) assessment that an employee has a poor home office set up or is not using their equipment correctly. Using equipment incorrectly may mean that the employee is at risk of injuries by not having their keyboards, mice, screen, or other equipment placed correctly for them. Alternatively, it can be the absence of workstation equipment that has the potential to cause problems for an employee.
Consequently, a successful DSE assessment can contribute to a safer, more comfortable working environment and a reduction in employee stress and DSE related health issues. The subsequent effect of the implementation of the results of an assessment are increased efficiency and comfort for the employee. Thus making a positive contribution to the organisation.
How Acacia can help
A remote DSE assessment is carried out by our experienced and skilled assessors. Implementing the recommended changes will ensure that an employer is compliant with the 2007 General Application Regulations that an employee is comfortable and adequately protected at work.
The H S A outlines guidance for employers for assisting employees when working from home and details the responsibilities of both the employer and employee. Consequently, in Acacia we use these guidelines as a reference point in assisting our clients when they request remote DSE assessments.
A detailed DSE assessment will investigate and correct the many areas of an employee’s physical working area. Areas that are assessed include workstation layout, chairs, desks, screens, software, and laptops. Additionally, within the assessment the environmental qualities are also evaluated including lighting, environmental factors, and rest breaks.
After the assessment has been carried out the recommendations will need to be implemented. Some will be the responsibility of the employer such as providing the necessary equipment and some will be the duty of the employee such as taking regular breaks, eliminating trip hazards etc.
Although there is no term on the validity of an assessment, it is recommended that it is revisited if the employees remote working situation changes.
The process of transitioning to remote working for entire organisations in 2020 was quite sudden. The increase in remote working and government strategy would suggest that remote DSE assessments will become more common place. Additionally, it may also create greater awareness in organisations of the necessity of being compliant with regulations and guidance. However, the advantages to this change in our working lives has become evident and would seem that remote working will continue to feature significantly in our future.
‘Remote Managers are having trust issues’, Harvard Business Review, Authors: Sharon K. Parker, Caroline Knight and Anita Keller (July 30th 2020) Source location
‘3 Tips to Avoid WFH Burnout’, Harvard Business Review, Authors: Laura M. Giurge and Vanessa K. Bohns (April 3rd, 2020) Source location:
‘Making Remote Work: National Remote Work Strategy’ – 15th January 2021
‘Working from home has not been a common feature of employment in Ireland‘ , ESRI, May 2020 –
Gensler U.S. Work From Home Survey (2020) (source Working From Home Reinforces the Benefits of the Office | Gensler)