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Working Safely From Home

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 28 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Work/life Balance Time Family Home

With the concept of a 'job for life' consigned to the history books, more people have embraced the opportunities offered by working from home. To those who have never considered it, the attractions seem endless - no setting the alarm clock, not having to wear a suit and tie, no daily commute. The reality, however, is quite different and there are many factors to take into consideration.

Working From Home - Tax and National Insurance Obligations

Firstly, whether you are working from home in an employed capacity or in a freelance/self-employed position, you are still liable for Tax and National Insurance Contributions. If the latter, you are required to inform the Inland Revenue of your circumstances and are responsible for keeping a record of all your income and expenditure, in a similar fashion to that of any other self-employed person.

There are also a number of steps you should take to ensure good health and safety practice.

Computer Workstations at Home

Without doubt, information technology has revolutionised the way in which we can conduct business today enabling many traditional office based tasks to be conducted from home. As in any office, working at a computer workstation involves taking the same necessary steps to ensure that your health and safety are not compromised.

It is no good thinking that you can simply plonk a laptop down on the kitchen table. You should invest in a suitable office desk and adjustable chair. There are a number of things to consider:

  • Adjust the seat height so that your elbows are roughly the same height as the keyboard. Once your chair is at the correct height, you should be able to place your feet flat on the floor.
  • Adjust the backrest so that it supports the curve in your lower back.
  • Sit as close to the desk as possible and sit back in your chair so that it supports your back.
  • Ensure the screen and keyboard is located directly in front of the seated position, so that you are sitting square on to them.
  • Adjust the viewing distance of the screen so that it is comfortable to read and doesn't strain your vision.
  • Rest your arms when not typing.
  • Take regular 10 minute breaks away from the screen every hour.

Working From Home - The Environment

You have taken the decision to work from home. Nevertheless, it is crucial to remember that, whilst working, your surroundings have to replicate a 'working environment'. There are many issues to consider:

Location - You need to ensure that you perform your work duties in a suitable location within your home. You need to have a quiet space in which to concentrate with correct lighting and ambience and, if you have family at home, they need to be able to get on with their life too. It's necessary to separate your work 'day' from 'family time' and both parties need to respect that.

Noise - It's crucial that you are able to concentrate whilst working so you need to ensure that you choose a quiet location in which to work with no distractions such as loud music or the TV in the background.

Psychological issues - Whilst working from home can seem very attractive, you need to be certain that you are comfortable working alone for most, if not all, of the time. It's important to make appropriate time for family and to maintain a healthy social network of friends and hobbies or pastimes. However, the Work/ life Balance has to be right. You need to keep work time and social activities separate. It's counterproductive to be phoning friends or have them calling you when you're supposed to be working. You should inform family and friends of your work hours and ask them not to call/visit you during the time you have set aside for work.

Using work machinery at home - If you are running a home based business that relies upon the use of machinery, you may need to check whether or not you need planning permission from your local authority. There may also be implications regarding your location and the level of noise generated by equipment so you need to ensure that any use of equipment fully complies with all health, safety and environmental regulations. Additional insurance cover may also be needed.

Additional staff working from your home - If you employ one or more people to work from your home, all the usual regulations apply with regards to health and safety matters and your employees' rights.

Is Working From Home For Me?

The opportunity to work from home has transformed the prospects of many people over recent years but it is not for everybody.

You need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have I got work or a business idea that can be conducted from my own home?
  • Is my home suitable in which to conduct my business?
  • Can I cope with spending my working days alone?
  • Am I able to manage my time effectively?

If you can answer 'Yes' to these questions, then you might seriously consider joining the legions of workers who have already adopted this method of working life for the better.

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