Teleworking: What risks are there when we work from home and how can we prevent them?

Fundación Laboral de la Construcción has given some guidelines to work safety at home during the coronavirus crisis.

Due to the crisis caused by the Covid-19 virus, many workers have to carry out their work at home. In order to prevent the possible risks that we can find when working from our homes, Fundación Laboral de la Construcción offers a series of advice and recommendations to be taken into account when carrying out the work activity according to the telework modality. Within this modality the most important thing is to know which are the main ergonomic, psychosocial and safety risks that exist when we work from home and how we can prevent them.

Ergonomic risks:

The main ergonomic risks that can affect the worker derive from the work environment itself, such as not having good lighting conditions, as well as problems with posture. In this sense, the main risks are maintaining static postures, as well as in the design of the work station which, in this case, has to be adapted to the available space and furniture of the home. The worker’s own postural habits must also be taken into account, which may lead to inadequate neck, back, hand and/or wrist postures.

In view of these risk factors, prevention technicians recommend taking into account different aspects and elements in the ergonomic design of the workplace, such as making correct use of the screen, the work table, the chair and the keyboard. When working with these elements, it is recommended to try to maintain a correct posture and avoid not only body efforts and maintaining inadequate postures, but also possible problems with reflexes and vision. Some of these tips include adjusting the brightness and contrast of the monitor, having enough space on the work table to place all the elements, having a stable chair, with support in the lumbar area and armrests, as well as leaving enough space with the keyboard to support the arms and hands.

Likewise, it is advisable to maintain optimum lighting conditions to avoid visual fatigue: have natural lighting whenever possible, complementing it with artificial lighting when it does not guarantee adequate visibility conditions; take breaks to rest your eyes; or place the screen perpendicular to the windows to avoid dazzle or reflections.

In addition, to avoid postural fatigue, it is recommended to distribute and regulate the elements of the post in such a way that they allow an adequate position to be adopted, as well as to make pauses that allow a change of posture and to carry out, periodically, stretching exercises.

Psychosocial risks:

The risks that the worker may suffer due to psychosocial risk factors derive mainly from the characteristics of the tasks and/or functions of the employee, and from the structure and organisation of the work. In this exceptional case, it is also necessary to take into account the influence of combining the work activity with the care of minor children in the same physical environment. What risks exist? In these cases, there is a risk of poorly defined functions, lack of clarity when it comes to achieving objectives, risk of physical and social isolation on the part of the worker and even a feeling of anxiety when faced with the use of ICTs.

In order to avoid these risks, it is advisable to formally establish contact procedures between workers (by e-mail or video conference meetings), with the aim of preventing the isolation of the teleworker and promoting the feeling of belonging to the company; to delimit the working hours and availability of the employee to avoid an overload of work (especially when it is combined with childcare), as well as to establish formalised working methods: to whom to report, in what way, when, etc., so that the worker has a support network from the company. It would also be advisable for the company to provide technical support to the teleworker to solve any computer failure.

Security risks:

Regarding the physical place where the work activity is carried out in the worker’s home, it is recommended that it complies with a series of aspects related to safety to prevent risks such as falls and blows against objects, electrical contacts, cuts with objects, etc.

Given these dangers, it is recommended, among other measures, that the worker keeps the passing areas clear of objects or cables; does not leave drawers, cupboards or furniture open with which he or she may hit; pays attention when using sharp elements, such as cutters or scissors; or does not overload the electrical outlet with multiple connections and power strips.

How can we manage the quarantine psychologically?

This situation of need for isolation causes emotions to arise when we face something new and uncertain, and for which we were not prepared. In order to help manage these emotions, the Official College of Psychology of Madrid (COPM) -Spain- has drawn up a decalogue for the psychological management of quarantine. The actions taken by the college include: understanding reality; understanding that staying at home is the right thing to do; planning for the new situation; getting informed properly; keeping in touch; taking advantage of the moment; taking time for creativity and for sports at home; observing the state of health of others and taking care of our state of mind.

In this sense, the psychologist and COPM collaborator, Ovidio Peñalver, has produced a video where, in a close and empathetic way, he provides a series of guides on how to act at this time

On the other hand, the COPM has also published some psychological recommendations so that children, between 4 and 10 years old, can face this outbreak in an adequate way, as well as some recommendations so that parents themselves know how to make the information available to them. In this way, the organisation recommends clarifying any doubts they may have, but at the same time giving them security and confidence and using language adapted to their age and knowledge.