How to Extend the Workplace Safely

28 January 2013

At the tail end of last year, a study by Virgin Media Business suggested that, within a decade, around 60% of us will be ‘regularly’ working from home.

If you’re based in London and you weren’t ‘agile’ working before the Olympic Games then chances are you’ve tried it out by now. But is the ‘extended workplace’ a safe environment in which to work? A property company’s ‘duty of care’ is not limited to the office, and as trains, cafés and the home have become extended working places, what advice do we give people to ensure that they are working safely?

1) Have you reminded them that they need to work carefully?
For companies where ‘health and safety’ is an intrinsic part of their business (such as those in the utility and industrial sector) there will be reams of information on the hazards of the workplace.

For many in our industry, however, there can often be little more than the ubiquitous ‘Health and Safety Law’ wall chart and a scrawled note to “Watch the wires” near the kettle. As our staff spend less time in the office than ever before, this link becomes ever more tenuous so it is important that they are reminded of the standard practices and guidelines for things such as working with digital screens, visiting development sites etc.

2) Have you informed them about security?
They key point here is that the agile worker is not tied to their home. They can work from a coffee shop, the train and even the local library. It’s not a case of simply keeping an eye on their belongings etc but simple tricks like sitting with your back to a wall, or fitting a screen filter to prevent people seeing your laptop screen.

3) Have you informed them about personal safety?
When we’re in an office, people are usually aware of our movements. When you’re working out of the office then it is vital that staff have a check-in system to let people know what their movements are - especially if it’s an asset in a risky neighbourhood or a new property development under construction.

4) Have you given them tips on data protection?
We all do it. Work from home, keep our files on the laptop and never transfer them to the company server or a back-up system. Also, think about encryption and tablet tracking/file deletion software should the worst happen and sensitive rental information goes awol.

5) Are they looking after their personal health?
In the office you can tell who is working too hard, who is exhausted etc but with the flexible worker this is much harder to ascertain. A manager should be asking if someone really needs to be emailing people yield figures at 2am.

6) Trust
People need to want to work differently, but managers need to also manage differently; being prepared to let go, trust and move from managing by ‘presenteeism’ to managing by outputs. In return, the agile worker will be more productive and happier.

Peter Jones is a Director with Capita's Property & Workplace Consulting team