Homeworking - computer set up tips and risk assessment

Following the Covid pandemic, many University staff may be working from home as a hybrid working arrrangement and using computer equipment in ways that are not typical of their previous normal work use. The advice below is intended to provide some basic tips on how to set up a home work area.

The training package "Homeworking Essentials" is available to all members of staff and students and can be found within Moodle. Viewing of this is strongly recommended.

Moodle Homeworking Essentials

Many people may be constrained by the equipment, space and furniture that they have available but, as a general rule, you should only work from home when you have a work area and equipment that is safe to use and legally compliant. You can check this by doing the University's online display screen equipment course and workstation risk assessment. The University accepts that staff may want to borrow IT equipment from their office, or need additional equipment to help with work from home, and is sympathetic to this within the constraints of budget and practical limitations. You should discuss any requirements with your manager.

If you use the integral keyboard on a laptop without a separate monitor you are VERY likely to suffer from neck and shoulder pain within a short time through constantly looking down at the screen. This is NOT a legally compliant workstation set up. You should not try, nor be expected, to use laptops and tablets for extended periods of time unless you can set them up in an ergonomic manner. This normally requires use of a separate keyboard and mouse as a bare minimum but a separate monitor is also helpful, as explained below.

Advice on computer ergonomics and use is available via the link on the Business Systems webpage entitled "Computer Workstation Training and Assessment". This package is aimed at employees and is only available to members of staff. A GUID is required to access the resource.

The following tips are suggested. 

  • Try to work on a desktop PC, if possible, rather than a laptop or notebook. This will allow a more ergonomic workstation set up.
  • If you are using a laptop or notebook, try to connect this to a separate keyboard, mouse and monitor if you have access to these. This allows an ergonomic set up comparable to a desktop PC to be achieved.
  • If you don't have a separate monitor, but can get a keyboard and mouse, connect these and use your laptop as a monitor only. Raise the laptop up so that the top of the screen is just below eye level and at a comfortable viewing distance.
  • If you have access to a height adjustable chair you should use this, adjusting the height so that when sitting upright with your forearms horizontal, your fingertips are at the same level as your keyboard. If you don't have an adjustable office-type chair you may be able to achieve a similar posture and position with a fixed chair.
  • Try to make sure that you take regular short breaks. Move around for 5 to 10 minutes each hour aiming for frequent short breaks rather than infrequent longer breaks. Taking regular breaks is particularly important if your computer is not set up in an optimal manner.
  • If you do not have a suitably set up computer workstation you may need to limit the time you spend at the keyboard to avoid suffering aches and pains. 

Risk assessment

Provided the computer workstation and associated equipment is assessed to be of a satisfactory and legally compliant standard, managers are not expected to carry out any further formal assessment of the work environment for staff merely because they are working at home, provided that they are engaged only in typical low-risk office and IT work. 

However, where work done at home involves higher-risk activities of a type that would not normally be done within a domestic environment, a full assessment of the risks including any risks that may be higher because of the lone working aspect does need to be completed and the control measures judged satisfactory before authorising the activity. Potentially increaased risk due to any lone working aspects of homeworking should form part of this assessment.