Whilst appropriate office equipment and office furniture is often available in offices, the rise of the home office as a result of the pandemic has led to increased demand for office supplies at home. Employers will typically perform routine desk assessments in the office to monitor the safety of the workstations and the implementation of procedures to protect confidential information. Whilst performing these assessments is more challenging in the era of remote working, this article will give you an overview of the key considerations to make when equipping your workers both for the office and at home and with next day delivery and free delivery for many products being the norm you can transform your working space in little to no time at all!
Health and safety
No matter the size of your office, employers have health and safety duties to their workers. As a result, employers will need to perform a health and safety risk assessment before allowing employees to work in the office. A health and safety risk assessment will look for factors which can cause hazards and determine the likelihood of them occurring. For example, an office needs to have enough space for workers to perform their duties and identified hazards need to be eliminated or managed safely. If employees are likely to spend long-hours in front of screens, it is important that they are equipped with ergonomic office chairs and that office desks are spacious so that workstations can be properly organised. Employers might also want to consider providing employees with stand desks, shelving, storage boxes, filing cabinets, bookcases, ring binders, lever arch files or organisers to help ensure that the work space can be kept tidy. Having a quality office set up is crucially conducive to a productive working environment and employers should also make sure that the lighting does not cause eyestrain. They might also consider providing large screen monitors to make digital material more readable and provide employees with ergonomic keyboards if their role requires them to continuously type. Ensuring there is adequate access to cleaning supplies and sanitisation stations is also crucial, particularly if employees are coming to work in the office. In the wake of Covid-19, laminating signs might also be a useful way to encourage general office hygiene.
How to choose a desk chair?
Choosing the right desk chair is crucial for employee wellbeing in the office. There are plenty of options depending on the budget and the type of work which will be performed from the chair. There are ergonomic office chairs for sitting long hours available at office equipment retailers such as Rymans, Viking Direct and Argos.
What policies do I need for office equipment?
Office equipment such as computers and laptops are often provided to workers but in certain circumstances they might also bring their own to work. The employer might prefer the latter for consultants and interns if they do not want to stock and maintain a spare pool of laptops. Consultants and interns usually have a duty to the employer to hand over confidential material which might have been developed during the course of the engagement and remove it from their devices.
When employers are providing electronic equipment, they should maintain a register of all the devices they own and have provided to workers both for security and safety reasons. This makes it easier to monitor compliance with PAT testing requirements and firmware updates. Employers should also have a policy to detail what a worker can or can’t use their electronic equipment for and provide guidance on taking equipment home.
Similarly, you might require office equipment in order to meet your policies. For example, for documents that have been printed it might be important to have a shredder accessible to ensure that documents can be sufficiently exposed of.
Can office equipment be taken home?
If workers are likely to work from home on a more permanent basis, employers should be proactive about making sure they can work from home in the right conditions. Whilst a risk assessment can be harder to conduct on a remote and case by case basis, asking simple questions about space and working conditions can help the employer determine if the worker can work from home. An employer might want to provide office equipment for a home office such as an ergonomic chair, lighting and monitors or alternatively rent shared office space closer to the worker’s home. The employer should also provide guidelines and training to remote workers for protecting confidential information at home and helping them monitor their own mental wellbeing as the blurred lines between home and work can contribute to stress.
Can an employer buy home office equipment for workers?
If the employer is purchasing equipment for a remote worker, it must be registered along with the employers’ office equipment as it will belong to the employer and will need to be returned if and when the worker ceases to work for the employer. The employer can claim tax relief on these purchases meaning that they will likely be VAT free.
From a contractual perspective, employers should be proactive about equipment, confidential information, data protection and health and safety by using remote work clauses in their employment or consultancy contracts. Remote work clauses help manage risk and set the expectations of working from home but must be complemented with clear company policies and a channel of communication with the remote workers. Daily standups, team meetings, one-to-ones and social calls are all great ways to maintain the connection no matter where your workers are based. Having a shared planner is also an easy way to understand what people are working on during the day, or whether they might have meetings, especially when working remotely. Equally, having noticeboards (even online versions) is a great way to keep your colleagues connected!
What office equipment should employers provide?
Your office equipment is important for your employee's health and safety and to ensure that you can meet your business and client needs. Whilst we are moving towards digitalisation, your business, or indeed the surrounding profession, might mean that your business still relies on paper and the ability to print documents out. Finding a quality inkjet or laser printer, from places like canon or epson, will ensure that the printer is page efficient. When selecting a printer, you might want to consider whether a built-in photocopier will be a cost-effective option for your business. Naturally, you will want to ensure that you have supplies for the printer, including printer paper (such as xerox), toner, ink cartridges. When choosing these supplies you should consider the purpose of your printer, for example whether it will be used to provide internal or external documents. For example, if you are going to be producing letters or leaflets for clients, you might want to consider purchasing higher-quality paper than the 80gsm standard. If using printers and copier paper, you will want to ensure that you have processes for the safe disposal of ink dispensers and that you have recycling facilities available.
If your employees are working from the office, you will also want to ensure that there are sufficient resources to encourage brainstorming and explaining. Whiteboards, easels and flip charts are a great way to help employees map out ideas to develop your business and are also useful for training new employees. You will also want to ensure that there is adequate office stationery to optimise the use of these tools, such as post-it notes, highlighters and board markers, such as those provided by bic. You might also want to consider getting a projector which can be used for both internal and external presentations and personalised office supplies, such as ball point pens with your company's logo on, could also be a useful marketing tool.
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The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.