New survey of the conditions for working at home during the pandemic

The work environment has been altered for many employees during the pandemic largely due to the recommendation from the Swedish Public Health Agency that employers, to the extent possible, should see to it that their employees can work from home.

Working from home has, in turn, entailed drastic changes to the physical, social and organisational work environments and presented new challenges for our working lives. As a consequence of these work environment adjustments, the Swedish Agency for Work Environment Expertise (Sw. Myndigheten för arbetsmiljökunskap) has been tasked by the Government with surveying and analysing the conditions for working at home during the pandemic.

According to the survey, approximately 30-40 per cent of the country’s employees have transitioned to working from home. In addition, it is stated that the conditions for the work environment have changed due to evident individualisation of the work environment and work environment efforts. In addition, the changes have also been brought about by a clear digitalisation of the work environment. For example, each employee’s work environment is affected by social factors such as living and family conditions as well as technical possibilities in the home environment. In addition, the “new” work environment is influenced by the ability of the employee and employer to deal with digital interfaces and the functionality of digital tools.

The survey emphasises that the transition to working from home has given rise to improvements in the work environment in certain respects, but also that the rapid and unplanned transition to working from home has engendered new work environment risks and observed that previously known work environment risks have been aggravated. The advantages, on the one hand, were described as primarily relating to greater flexibility in the manner in which work and free time can be combined, the increased ability to concentrate, and reduction in stress levels by avoiding the need to commute to the workplace. It was also emphasised that many employees are positive about working from home and that the transition has generally worked well in spite of the circumstances.

The disadvantages, on the other hand, were described as involving an increase in reported ergonomic problems and social isolation, which constitute two of the six work environment risks identified by the survey. Additional work environment risks identified included technical inadequacies, changes to the conditions for a trusting relationship between managers and employees, altered forms of work and the more diffuse boundary between work and free time.

In light of the results of the survey, the Swedish Agency for Work Environment Expertise has proposed a series of short- and long-term measures. These measures and the entire report can be read here.

Below, you will find Vinge’s list of tips for employers who have employees working from home:

  1. Analyse the risks of ill health and accidents to which your specific business, in combination with working from home, gives rise and which measures may be taken to mitigate these risks. Collaborate with your employees.
  2. Try to get an idea of how your employees’ work day is arranged at home and attempt to understand if it differs from the situation in which your employees are working from the workplace. Are these changes beneficial or detrimental?
  3. As an employer, you continue to bear the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that your employees work in a sound and safe work environment. Inquire yet again about your employee’s circumstances when working from home and the employee’s views on it in practice.
  4. Consider the special needs of your business and your employees (meeting culture, social activities, leadership issues, etc.)
  5. To the extent possible, make the effort to call instead of sending an e-mail. Social interaction is easier over the telephone than it is by e-mail.
  6. Although it can feel somewhat stilted, arrange social activities digitally or outside while maintaining proper distance – it is often a welcome break from work. Team spirit remains important during a pandemic.