29 April 2020
- Remote work is work performed independently of a fixed location or working time.
- Remote work requires trust between the employee, supervisor and employer, planning and agreeing together as well as supporting the employee’s independent work.
- Clear instructions regarding remote work should be provided at the workplace and they should also be updated as the situation develops.
- During the coronavirus pandemic, remote work should be carried out at home or in similar controlled environments in order to minimize the risk of spreading the virus.
Risk assessment of remote work
- The employer’s duty to exercise care and the identification of hazards and harmful factors also applies to remote work.
- Risk assessment is part the normal activities at workplace regarding safety. In the risk assessment, the employer needs to identify the hazards at the workplace and then evaluate the risks they cause for employees’ health and safety.
- The occupational safety and health professionals support the employer in the risk assessment.
- The risks that feature prominently in remote work include physical and psychosocial load and accident hazards.
- Employees experiences of workload factors related to remote work can also be analysed with employee surveys, the results of which help in assessing risks related to remote work.
See Regional State Administrative Agency’s survey questionnaire: Psychosocial workload factors
See Ministry of Social Affairs and Health: Work book on risk assessment at the workplace (in Finnish)
- The employer can encourage employees to evaluate the risks of their remote work environment in the same way as in the workplace (exits and accident hazards, for example).
- The employer’s statutory occupational accident and occupational disease insurance provides a more limited compensation coverage for accidents at remote work than for accidents at the actual workplace. Consequently, the employer may complement the insurance coverage with voluntary personal insurance. In this case, the extent of the insurance coverage should be looked into. SeeFinnish Workers’ Compensation Center’s blog post (in Finnish).
Employer and supervisor
Develop a way of working remotely that is suitable for your organization and team
- Prolonged continuous remote work may require new work routines and practical arrangements at home. The usual upsides of remote work, such as the lack of disturbances, ability to work in peace and reduced work-related stress, may no longer be present.
- Continuous, nearly full-time remote work may feel numbing, the employee may have feelings of isolation and the risk of psychological load increases.
- Develop a meaningful way of working remotely, taking into consideration the requirements of different tasks, individuals and the community. For example: what kinds of tasks are suitable for remote work and when should you come to the office or meet clients in person?
- It is important to provide employees with clear communications about the work ability maintenance practices that should be adhered to, the forms of help and support available, the services offered by the occupational health care and the actions with which the employer can contribute to improving work ergonomics, among other things.
- It is a good idea for the workplace to try out different alternatives, collect employees’ experiences and develop practices as necessary.
- Remote work does not have to be an either/or option. Groups of employees can alternate between remote work and working physically at the workplace. This results in fewer people simultaneously present at the workplace, making it easier to maintain safety distances.
- If an employee requires flexibility regarding working hours due to, for example, a relative falling ill, remote school arrangements or childcare, agree on how to divide the work into periods while also taking care of adequate rest. Part-time work can be a temporary solution, if necessary. Assess the possibility and need for asymptomatic quarantined people to perform remote work on a case-by-case basis.
Ensure work ability management
- Ensure that the supervisor contacts their subordinates regularly, not only in matters related to the content of work but also in questions related to work arrangements, amount of work and workload factors.
- Brainstorm to come up with low-threshold practices for communicating about well-being at work and noticing changes in work ability. These could include, for example, regular personal phone calls, coaching discussions or short, repeated status surveys.
- Allocate sufficient resources to human resources management.
Ensure expertise and working conditions
- Guide and support new remote workers when they start working. Pay special attention to ensuring that they get to know the work community.
- Ensure that connections work and that technical support is available.
- If you use virtual modes of communication or arrange virtual meetings, make sure that everyone knows how to use the tools.
- Expertise can be developed and maintained also in remote work by participating in online training.
- Also note that time should be reserved for the adoption of new and changing work practices and instructions.
- Discuss the functionality of the employee’s work environment (space, desk, chair, lighting, sound environment).
- Consider the possibility of allowing employees to temporarily take home ergonomic tools and furniture, such as an adjustable chair, a separate screen and a keyboard.
- The employer’s tip about the right to claim tax deductions on work equipment and home office expenses may turn out to be very useful.
Tips for supervisors and team leaders
Ways to maintain a sense of community
- Agree on how you contact colleagues and how you support teamwork and shared tasks.
- When logging into a virtual meeting, greet others.
- If the meeting has many attendees, it is a good idea to say your name when you start to speak, especially if not all attendees are familiar with each other.
- It is recommended to have your camera on, for example at the beginning of the meeting.
- Adopt practices that support active participation and interaction.
- Organize informal virtual meetings or use other digital channels for chatting. It is also important that there is a possibility to share good practices, solve problems and ask for help and advice.
- Ensure that new members of the work community get to know other employees.
Ways to promote the flow and meaningfulness of work
- Remember to give positive feedback that promotes working.
- Discuss work tasks and goals to maintain the significance and meaningfulness of work.
- Discuss and share experience of good practices of daily remote work to ensure the smooth flow of work.
- Agree rules for being available and unavailable.
- Communicate your availability by means such as applications’ status messages and keeping a shared calendar up to date.
- Agree on meeting-free times.
Ways to support coping
- The monitoring of strain, workload and working hours and keeping them at a reasonable level are also important when working remotely.
- Agree on ways to introduce “porosity” into working days to ensure that days do not turn into an uninterrupted chain of meetings. You can do this by making 45- or 90-minute meeting reservations or scheduling meetings to start at 15 past and not exactly on the hour. You can agree on breaks during long meetings.
- Reserve time for transitions and breaks that support recovery during the working day.
- Fair treatment, a sense of community, two-way communications, the meaningfulness of work and feedback on work performance boost well-being at work also when working remotely.
- Reserve sufficient time for people management and low-threshold contacts.
- Be visible in the channels of your work community and contact your subordinates actively.
- If possible, hold walking meetings outdoors, taking into consideration safe distances and regional restrictions on the number of participants. Also remember safety when choosing routes and footwear.
Tips for employees
- Agree on tasks to be conducted remotely with your supervisor.
- Think about where you want to work, where you feel most comfortable and where you have the best possible focus.
- Prepare for a day of remote work like you would prepare for a regular working day. Make sure that your equipment is in order and check the schedule for the day on the previous day.
- Make it clear to yourself what you want to accomplish during the remote working day. Make a list of tasks and use it to monitor your progress.
- Ensure in advance that, even when working remotely, you have all the information and devices available that your work requires.
- Show initiative. Let your supervisor and colleagues know what you are doing and how you are progressing.
- Agree with the people you co-operate with the times when you are available in a virtual teamwork space, by phone or by email, for example.
- Remember to make sure that you also have work periods when you can focus on the task at hand without interruptions. If you need to work in the mornings and evenings in order to ensure that you can work in peace, agree on it with your supervisor.
- Stick to your routine. Think about how you can best set yourself in work mode; for example, by taking a short walk before beginning work.
- Plan your working day so that it contains a suitable mix of focused independent work and teamwork.
- Change your posture regularly during the day.
- Take breaks just like you would at the office. Move around and stretch when feeling tired.
- Make exercise during breaks part of your daily routine.
- You can also move around and stand during the meeting, which makes it easier to maintain your energy level.
- Make sure that your home or your remote work location is sufficiently calm and that your work environment does not contain accident hazards.
- Chart places where you can easily for stumble and trip as well as other potentially hazardous places. This enables you to reduce accident risks.
- If you are working remotely with your family, make plans for how to conduct the remote working day, for example in a family meeting.
- Do not hesitate to contact your colleagues or supervisor even in small matters when you need new perspectives or help in carrying out your tasks.
For more information, please contact email@example.com
The guidelines of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) are drawn up together with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (SMAH) and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. We also follow the publications of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).