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The hybrid work model – tips for employers to maintain workplace safety

2020 was a year like no other and, although workplaces are adapting to the new normal, certain trends look set to stay. One of those is the hybrid model of work where some employees return to the workplace and others continue to work from home, or a blend of the two.

In Microsoft’s recent study, 73 per cent of workers surveyed said they want flexible remote work options to continue, while at the same time, 67 per cent are craving more in-person time with their teams. This throws up some very interesting challenges for employers. At Rehab Management, we anticipate two areas that will require particular attention are ergonomics and employee mental health.

Employers still have a responsibility for employees working from home. From a functional perspective, it is important to ensure that their workspace is set up properly and that they have the right equipment. Failing to do so can result in workplace injuries and increases in compensation claims.

Just as important is the wellbeing side of things. How do you ensure that you are across how your employees are faring mentally and emotionally when there is less face to face interaction? How do you manage digital exhaustion, siloed teams and keep people engaged?

Lost productivity due to mental ill-health is estimated to cost the Australian economy between $10-18 billion every year, but on the flip side, every dollar invested into workplace mental health is estimated to deliver a return on investment of five-to-one.

Here are four important steps employers can take:

1. Address ergonomic problems before remote work becomes a costly risk

Companies may want to consider doing remote ergonomic assessments to help minimise the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. This may include providing required infrastructure like ergonomic chairs with maximum back support and height-adjustable desks.

Engaging a corporate health consultan can help manage this process and demonstrate that you have taken the correct precautions for employee safety.

2. Systematically check in with your workforce and offer support

A simple way to check in on the mental health of your workforce is via a regular mental health screening tool. One example is Rehab Management’s CheckInToday program, an online tool. As a leader this is fundamental to keeping my pulse on the engagement of my workforce. It is an evidence-based screening questionnaire that is completed by employees and the results are sent back to us in real time. From here, we are able to formulate a tailored support program for each individual. Categorised into four tiers, the program can cover a range of wellbeing support services across physical, mental, social, health, lifestyle, work and study.

3. Educate and communicate with your workforce

Employers should also focus on providing ongoing learning resources geared toward ergonomics, mental health and the additional support that is on offer to them. A simple way to start is via online learning and educational learning modules. These cover a variety of topics relevant to workplace health and wellbeing.

4. Engage a corporate health consultant

If this is not your company’s area of expertise, reach out to an expert in the field to ensure you are ticking all of the right boxes. It is important to ensure you and your employees understand and comply with WHS legislation. While it is impossible to know it all, there is help available.

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