29 April 2020

Updated 16.1.2021 (Risk assesment)

Guidelines for remote work  

The current recommendation is that remote work should be favoured as much as possible during the coronavirus outbreak. These guidelines are meant as a checklist for organizing remote work in the current exceptional situation and they are targeted for employees, supervisors and employers.

Remote work during the coronavirus pandemic

Remote work is work performed independently of a fixed location or working time. During the coronavirus pandemic, remote work should be carried out at home in order to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. Office hotels, hubs and other shared remote work premises should be avoided at the moment.

Remote work in this new situation can be completely different than before. For someone not used to remote work, the situation is new and requires reframing and organizing work routines which may cause stress.

Those who have previously worked remotely may face new challenges as they work from home, as 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.

Even in the ongoing exceptional situation, the basis for remote work is trust between the employee, supervisor and employer, planning and agreeing together as well as supporting employee’s independent work.

Employer and supervisor

  • Utilise the remote work instructions of your organization when agreeing on how to conduct work. This is also a good opportunity to gather information for updating instructions and increase future use of remote work. Remote work can also be one solution for continuing operations under other exceptional circumstances.
  • Clear instructions regarding remote work should be provided at the workplace. It is good to draw up a written agreement, if the situation allows. Flexible work as defined in the new Working Hours Act includes remote work. You can find further information on the content of flexible work agreements in the Working Hours Act (in Finnish).
  • Ensure that all employees have the devices and skills required to perform remote work.
  • If you use virtual modes of communication or arrange virtual meetings (e.g., Skype, Teams, Zoom), make sure that everyone knows how to use the tools.

Risk assessment of remote work

  • Risk assessment is part the normal activities at workplace regarding safety. The employer needs to identify the risks and evaluate the impact of the risks associated with the identified hazards on employees’ health and safety. Also the risks of remote work need to be evaluated. The occupational safety and health professionals can support the employer when assessing the risks and hazards at the workplace.
  • In remote work the following risks arise: physical and psychosocial load as well as accident hazards
  • The employees’ experiences of remote work and its load can been found out e.g. by questionnaires
  • The employer can encourage the employees to evaluate the risks of remote work the same way it is done at workplace (e.g. exits, accident hazards)
  • An occupational accident is an accident that has a clear relationship of cause and effect with the task included in the job description. Employees can complement their insurance coverage with leisure time accident insurance. See Safe remote work, instructions for employers and employees (TTK, In Finnish.)

Issues to be considered during the coronavirus epidemic

  • As the duration of remote works gets longer it is very important that the employer keeps contact with the employees and discusses with them about work, organization of work, resources and the work load. See Guidelines for supporting mental well-being (FIOH)
  • Consider at the workplace the most meaningful way of working remotely, taking into consideration the requirements of different tasks, individuals and the community. One way to gather information related to assessing procedures is a risk assessment (see How to assess the risk of COVID-19 infections at the workplace?)
  • 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. In a hybrid remote work model some employees remain working remotely while others return to the workplace.
  • The workplace should get acquainted with and pilot different options as well as change operating methods, as necessary.
  • The primary location of remote work should be the employee’s home or a similar location.
  • Consider the possibility of allowing the employees to take home e.g. ergonomic chair, screen and keyboard during the remote work. It might also be useful to inform the employees on their right to do tax deductions on work equipment expenses.
  • Make sure that employees who are new to remote work are instructed and supported appropriately. Special attention should be paid to ensuring ICT support in case problems arise.
  • Arrange events in which experiences, good practices and issues can be shared and people can tell how they are doing.
  • If an employee requires flexibility regarding working hours due to, for example, childcare, a relative falling ill or remote school, 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.
  • Employees placed in quarantine: Assess the possibility and need for asymptomatic quarantined people to perform remote work on a case-by-case basis.
  • Based on the experiences of remote work accrued during the spring, it is very important to take care of communications and interaction between remote employees both related to work tasks as well as people generally sharing their experiences. Please see our practical tips for maintaining good interaction and keeping work running smoothly. (see Tips and procedures for managing remote work.)

Employee

  • Agree on tasks to be conducted remotely with your supervisor.
  • 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.
  • Be available by phone or by email as much as possible.
  • 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.
  • Make sure that you work ergonomically – change your posture regularly and utilize applications for exercise during breaks.
  • Take breaks just like you would at the office. Move around and stretch when feeling tired.
  • Think about where you want to work, where you feel most comfortable and where you have the best possible focus.
  • Make sure that your home or your remote work location is sufficiently calm.
  • Pay attention to the possible risks and hazards e.g. notice places where you can easily for stumble and tripp.
  • If you are working remotely with your family, make plans for how to conduct the remote working day, for example with a morning meeting. For more information, please see Guidelines for supporting mental well-being and This is how to combine remote work with remote school (Työpiste online publication, in Finnish.)

Issues to be considered during the coronavirus epidemic

  • Do not work even remotely if you are ill.
  • If you are unable to meet your deadlines, inform your supervisor about any changes in your situation. Find solutions together.
  • Look after your well-being, rest, recovery and spend time outdoors. Be kind to yourself.
  • The exceptional situation related to the coronavirus epidemic can cause anxiety and take up resources. If necessary, discuss the situation with your colleagues, supervisor, friends or a healthcare professional.

Maintaining physical distances increases the number of remote meetings. See and put to use our tips for remote meetings, see Remote work ahead? Tips for employees and employers (in Finnish)

See also

Guidelines for supporting mental well-being (in Finnish)

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health Guidelines for Employers to Prepare for the Coronavirus Epidemic

How to assess the risk of COVID-19 infections at the workplace?

Remote work ahead? Tips for employees and employers (in Finnish)  

For more information, please contact viestinta@ttl.fi  

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).

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), COVID-19

World Health Organization (WHO), coronavirus