Work, Health and Safety is a concern for home offices
In a few recent posts, I’ve written about some of the co-working spaces that have cropped up all over our metropolitan suburbs, but in particular, the ones that have started operating out of some of our regional town centres, like the Nexus Hub in Wyong, on the Central Coast of NSW.
All of these smart hubs and co-working spaces have a commitment to the health and safety of the people using their spaces, particularly those smart hubs which are backed by the Government’s Smart Work Hub pilot program.
Smart hubs looks out for your ergonomics and health and safety
From providing ergonomic workstations to ensuring common areas are free of debris and other hazardous materials to having any electronics and technology checked and tested to confirm they’re fit for use, a commercial co-working space or smart work hub must adhere to a strict WHS policy, as do customers of each smart hub or co-working space.
If you’ve ever been to a co-working space before, then you’ve probably been given a WHS procedure document to read and sign. That document sets out the responsibilities the co-working space has to maintaining a safe working environment for everyone visiting the co-working space, as well as the responsibilities you have as a user of the space.
Typical items that you would find in a WHS agreement at a co-working space include:
Adopt a relaxed posture while working
Align computer monitor and keyboard to create comfortable work posture
Clean up any spills and breakages immediately
Notify site supervisor of any broken or damaged power leads.
Teleworkers will also have to adhere to WHS policies, set out by their employer
If you work for a company that has a flexible workplace policy that allows you to work from a different office, from home, or at a co-working space (like the Nexus Hub), then you should be given a teleworking document, outlining your responsibilities when working offsite, and your employer’s responsibilities to you too.
In WHS agreement from an employer, you’d typically find item such as:
Traffic ways, hallways, and aisles should be kept well lit and clear of materials, equipment, rubbish, and electric leads
Floors are level and any spills or breakages are cleaned immediately
Freestanding fittings are complete stable or secured to the wall or floor
Filing cabinets do not open into hallways or halls, and filing is performed from bottom up, with only one door open at a time to maintain the cabinet’s stability
The temperature should range between 21-24 degrees Celsius with 40-60 percent humidity and good ventilation.
For employers that allow their staff to work from home, the workplace practices and procedures of the agreement is pretty extensive. Some employers may even send a WHS specialist to your home to check that your workstation is ergonomic and also complies with the company’s WHS policies and procedures.
But what about you – what are your teleworking WHS guidelines?
But there are a lot of small business owners who work from home; I wonder what their WHS policies and procedures are. I bet they don’t have any policies or procedures for WHS; I don’t even think many people give much though to the ergonomics of their home office.
How many of you hunch over a laptop most days? Do you have a separate monitor connected your laptop to help with your posture? Do you have a laptop stand? Do you make sure that you take regular breaks, every 30 minutes or so, for at least five minutes to give your body a rest? How many footsteps are you taking each day? Are you getting the 10,000 recommended by the World Heath Organisation to ensure optimum health? (For the record, 10,000 footsteps each day is the equivalent to walking about 9km.)
No WHS guidelines = ill health
If you answered ‘no’ to any of the above, then you’re like the majority of home-based workers, but you’re probably also causing yourself untold musculoskeletal problems, from issues ranging from poor posture to shoulder and neck tension (one of the leading causes of tension and migraine headaches) to lower back problems.
Most of these issues can be resolved quite simply by paying better attention to your workspace – ensure your monitor is adjusted to suit your height, and that your keyboard and chair promote good ergonomics. And make sure you take regular breaks and make a decent enough dent in those 10,000 steps each day.
If you’ve ever suffered from tension headaches from hunching over laptop all day (which a member of my team does), just switching to a desktop PC or making sure you always use a laptop stand.
Even though you might have a healthier state-of-mind working from home – you’re not stuck for hours each day in stressful traffic – you might not be healthier physically, unless you take care to implement some basis WHS procedures in your home office, as well as your daily routine.
Are you a business owner? How do you share information about your WH&S Policies and ?
EzyLearn is an online training business and we’ve been creating our own training courses since 2003 so we have plenty of experience in course design, creating training content, implementing it into an online LMS and managing the enrolment process for thousands of students – we’re in a great position to create and manage an online induction system for your contractor management or staff training. Find out about our online induction services and request a quote.
Local Government Councils Encourage Home Businesses and Working from Home
IF YOU’RE THINKING about whether to start your own home-based business, consider this fact I stumbled across recently: More than a third of all Australian micro businesses – that is, a business with four or fewer employees – use the Internet to allow their staff to work from home, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
[quote]That’s an 8% increase in 2 years[/quote]
This represents an 8 percent increase in the number of people working from home in the space of just two years, and you can bet that figure keeps rising. You can also bet that a good majority of those people working from home were not employees, but independent contractors.
The business opportunities are there if you’re up for the challenge!
I’m not saying that the demand will peter off, but I do think it’s a good idea to establish yourself now, while the practice is still gaining momentum, rather than waiting to board the train at the next station – because it might be hard to find a space in which you’ll fit then.
Your time is now
If you have a business idea you’ve been toying around with for some time, but just need the soft skills to get it off the ground, our Small Business Management Course can help you.
Alternatively, you might be interested in some already existing business opportunities, in which case the StartUp Academy can provide you with the training, guidance and support you need to make the transition from salaried employee to independent contractor.
For more information on working with the StartUp Academy, visit their website. Or if you’d like more information on our Small Business Management Course, visit our website or enrol here.
NSW State Government Building Codes, Local Council Planning Zones and the ATO
There are concessions and exemptions as well as of course deductions (costs that you incur that can reduce your taxable income) that all point to ways that our local, state and federal governments are doing their best to help grow the knowledge economy of home based workers. Most people though who decide to start a business from home are just thrilled at the personal development journey, learning how to become independent and have a better quality of life.
In 2011, the then-Gillard Government introduced a teleworking initiative, established to encourage private sector employers to allow their employees to regularly work from home. The teleworking initiative was soon followed by Gillard’s own commitment in 2012 to have 12 percent of all Australian public servants teleworking by 2020. But the initiative also served another purpose: to promote the use of the national broadband network (NBN).
That was then. By 2013, the Gillard Government had been ousted, and the NBN has been through many different incarnations since it was first announced – it’s still moving forward, albeit as a significantly scaled back offering to what was originally proposed. Also ousted in 2013 was the Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE), which oversaw the Government’s Teleworking initiative.
In place of the DBCDE, the Government formed the Department of Communications. It’s primary functions are the same as the DBCDE’s, with one exception: there’s no teleworking initiative, which has ostensibly gone the way of the clog (remember those?). For whatever reason, it now appears that the Federal Government isn’t very interested in encouraging Australian businesses to have their staff telework or to utilise teleworkers, who may be scattered across Australia.
Employed Teleworkers not Independent Contractors?
Could it be that the telework initiative stepped on the toes of various of state and territory level telework initiatives that involved funding, what the NSW Government has dubbed, Smart Work Hubs? Smart Work Hubs, like the one at Wyong on the NSW Central Coast, are essentially co-working spaces established to encourage employers to allow their staff to telework – from one of the government-funded smart hubs, of course.
This is an interesting move, but it relies on people who are already employed and already commuting to a major city centre or business district to utilise the smart hubs, which come at a cost to either the employee or their employer. The locations of the existing five pilot smart hubs in NSW are already located in major areas – Western City and the Central Coast; all areas with easy access to high speed internet services.
For more smarts to be rolled out in other regional areas – Newcastle is rumoured to be next – the existing ones need to prove they’re worth the investment, and that relies on numbers. A significant number of teleworkers, the emphasis here being on teleworkers and not the self-employed, need to be using the smart work hubs regularly enough for the NSW Government to rollout the next phase of smart work hubs.
But as I hinted before, this relies on people who already have access to high-speed internet services at their home and who are still within commuting distance to their place of work, to be willing to pay to telework regularly. Maybe the reason the Federal Government really scrapped its teleworking initiative had nothing to do with the NSW Government’s smart work hubs at all. Maybe it had more to do with it’s new-look NBN.
What the scaled back NBN really looks like
When the NBN was originally proposed, the original plan was to deploy high-speed-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband for most Australians, but that was soon ditched by the Abbott Government for being too expensive. The new-look NBN now consists of a mixed network that prioritises fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) technology, which means that fibre optic cables are run to each internet node and the rest of the connection is completed through Telstra’s ageing copper wire network.
Under this NBN, the speed of your internet will vary on how far you live from the node. The further away you live, the slower it will be. But it’s okay, the Government has promised that the slowest NBN speeds could ever get to is 25 Megabits per second (Mbps), the same speed the US Federal Communications Commission defined as the absolute bare minimum to be able to call an internet connection broadband.
The other issue, of course, remains the copper wire network, which the Government now has to buy back off Telstra for $11bn (after the Howard Government sold it to Telstra a decade ago) when it discovered there was a lack of infrastructure in most regional areas of Australia that prevented many households from even connecting to the exchange, never mind the port – as well as some households in major cities.
So what now for teleworkers?
If you’re a teleworker and you live near a NSW Government smart work hub, use it. Certain hubs offer discounts to the NSW Government’s definition of a teleworker – someone who usually commutes to their workplace – while the self-employed can still reap the benefit of working from a smart hub, which are located near or offer child minding facilities, cafes, parking, and gyms.
If you were counting on the NBN to make it easier to work remotely or start your own business, don’t give up on it yet. The Government knows that the key to remaining competitive in the global marketplace is to have access to high-speed telecommunications networks, so the NBN is still, and will continue to be, a major priority.
If you’d like to start your own home-based business, but don’t know where to go for advice and support now that the Government has, seemingly, abandoned it’s teleworking initiative, visit the WorkFace website. WorkFace is an EzyLearn business partner made up of a network of teleworking professionals who have helped many EzyLearn graduates start their own home-based virtual assistant businesses.
Blogging is a Teleworking Task
The article you’re reading is part of the EzyLearn blog and this work can be done from anywhere in the world so it’s a popular outsourced task. If you want to explore blogging for your business or want to learn how it works so you can offer it as a service then discover our Blogging for Business Online Training Course.
In the federal government budget for 2015/16 the changes included bonuses for small businesses and cuts to daycare subsidies for stay-at-home parents who still send their kids to daycare. The reforms will mean that for families with an income above $65,000 a year, they’ll no longer have access to childcare subsidies if one parent is not working. For families with an income under $65,000 a year, they’ll be limited to twelve hours of childcare a week, unless both parents are in work or study.
What this mean for mums who want to work from home
Well, the good news is that for families where both parents work, they’ll be able to access 24 hours of subsidised childcare each week. That’s regardless of where your employment is; if you’re employed and you’re paying taxes, then you’re entitled to access the childcare subsidy.
For mums (or dads) who need flexibility in their employment so they can still meet the kids at the school gate or take care of them when they’re sick, the reforms to childcare subsidies offer that flexibility.
There are now virtually no barriers to starting your own home-based business, regardless of the industry or profession you choose. Just take a look at the number of networking groups now on Meetup, where nearly every member is a home-based office worker or self-employed. And the government just made it a whole lot easier for families with one parent at home to start a home-based business and have the distraction-free time they need to get their work done, too.
If you’ve been thinking of starting your own home-based business or becoming an independent contractor, EzyLearn offers a number of training courses to give you the skills you need to get started, including a new course on content marketing, which is a huge growth area, requiring many skilled, Australian writers, and will be the subject of another blog post soon.