Working from home has become ubiquitous since the first national lockdown. Consequently, remote working combined with an office presence has 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 recent years 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. We are also expected legislation giving employees the right to request working from home. 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 food 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, who permit working from home, 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.
When assessments are carried out, whether for our own employees or our clients’ employees, at Acacia we encounter a variety of issues. Occasionally it becomes apparent when our EHS Advisor 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, monitors, or other equipment placed correctly for them. Alternatively, it can be the absence of workstation equipment, or indeed the absence of a suitable location, that has the potential to cause problems for an employee.
Consequently, a compliant DSE assessment can contribute to a safer, more comfortable working environment and a reduction in employee stress and DSE related health issues. The subsequent effects of a suitable workstation and work environment 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 DSE Assessors. Implementing the recommended control measures will help ensure that an employer is compliant with the 2007 General Application Regulations and that an employee is comfortable and adequately protected at work.
The HSA published guidance for employers and employees to assist when working from home and this details the responsibilities of both under current legislation. Consequently, in Acacia we use these guidelines as a minimum reference point in assisting our clients when they request remote DSE assessments.
A detailed DSE assessment will investigate and correct the many aspects of an employee’s physical working environment. Areas that are assessed include workstation layout, work-chairs, desks, monitors, and software . Additionally, within the assessment the environment is also evaluated including suitable lighting, adequate temperature, and appropriate rest breaks.
To complete the Remote DSE Assessment process, Acacia uses purpose-built software which enables us to efficiently manage large and small volumes of DSE Assessments seamlessly. There are several stages in the process:
- The employee receives a link and a unique activation code to allow them to begin their online assessment. Once logged in, the first step is for the employee to consent to the online process
- Next, the employee is required to watch a short video which demonstrates how to correctly set up their workstation. They must complete the training before moving on to the next step.
- The employee is then required to answer a series of questions relating to the workstation and the home working environment. The employee is also given the opportunity to comment on any issues they may have with the workstation so that these are brought to the assessors & employers attention
- Following this, the employee must upload 2 photographs of their workstation. Once uploaded, the employees account will lock to prevent unauthorised access and the information will be made available to the assessor.
- The information provided, including photographs, will be reviewed and risk assessed by a trained DSE Assessor (who is also a qualified EHS Advisor). To help ensure consistency, a second assessment by another EHS Advisor will also take place.
- The finding of the assessments will be documented and made available to the employer via an offline viewer. Throughout the process, the employer will have access to a dashboard which will enable them to monitor the progress of the programme within their organisation.
- In addition, the system includes a feature which will tabulate any equipment required so that at the end of the process, the employer will have a comprehensive list of items that needs to be purchased. This can easily be exported from the system as a CVS file.
After the assessment has been carried out the control measures 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.
To remain compliant, it is recommended that DSE Assessments are revisited if the employees remote working situation changes. Employers should also be aware that in the event of hybrid working, a DSE Assessment is required for the home workstation and in the office.
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 are becoming more commonplace. 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.
To discuss remote DSE assessments with a member of our team, you can contact us here.
(This post was originally published in February 2021. It has been updated to give more detail about the process of the assessments in June 2022)
‘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)