COVID-19 – Advice on Home Working Challenges

Many millions of employees are now starting, or have recently started, working from home. This temporary event creates a large number of health and safety questions. Our homes are not always great environments for working in. Many people will not have office-style setups and will have limited space to work in. Dining rooms, kitchen worktops and sofas are not conducive to good posture and comfort. And with young children or dependents, in the home environment, there are huge challenges regarding psycho-social issues and employee welfare. To help, PI Expert has created 8 temporary home worker advice sheets covering the following home working challenges.

You download the advice sheet using the links below, alternatively, you can scroll down to read the same advice on this page.

Working from home, your comfort

Welcome to working from home. You may be a seasoned home-worker or this may be your first time. Either way there are some simple but effective things you can do to keep yourself comfortable, healthy and productive.
Unless you have a dedicated desk and chair setup it can be difficult to achieve a healthy posture. That said, it is possible to work effectively from a couch, dining room table or kitchen counter by following this advice:

  • First, figure out where you are going to work to avoid too many distractions.
  • If possible, try to avoid soft seating. Couches and beds do not support your body well. If you do decide to work from your couch use a small pillow to support your lower back and maintain the natural curve of your spine.
  • Avoid placing your laptop on your lap. This can cause laptop burn on your legs. Use a tray or even a magazine to prevent contact.
  • In an office your chair is positioned so your thighs are horizontal and your feet flat on the floor or footrest. It is unlikely your dining chair or kitchen stool will provide the same support so your pelvis may be tilted while you work. Make sure you stand up regularly and move your body.
  • A couple of ways of doing this is to place your beverage out of reach so you have to move to get it. Stand up while taking a call.
  • Listen to your body! If you become stiff, fidgety or uncomfortable… MOVE! If you experience more frequent discomfort speak with your manager or health and safety colleagues.

Remember, your health and wellbeing is the most important thing for us. This homeworking period is temporary and difficult for all of us, we are here to support you through this challenging period.

Working from home, stretching and energising

You may be a seasoned home-worker or this may be your first time. Either way there are some simple but effective things you can do to keep yourself comfortable, healthy and productive.

Poor posture can cause fatigue which can set in quickly and affect our concentration, productivity and wellbeing. When you work from home there is less need to move. This can affect the oxygen in your soft tissues, cause discomfort and affect everything you do.

Set an alarm on your phone to take a short break every 20-30 minutes. If you are working on a couch, dining room chair or at a kitchen counter you may need to take a shorter break even more frequently. Use your break time well. Below is a list of stretching exercises to help keep you energised. You can also download an App by searching Healthy Working in the Apple and Android stores.

Note: when doing stretching exercises, always stay within your own limits and follow your doctor’s advice.

Forearm stretch down

Hold your right arm out in front of you – hand facing out and your fingers pointing down. With your left hand pull downwards until you feel a stretch along the right forearm and/or wrist. Repeat for the left arm.

Forearm stretch up

Hold your right arm out in front of you – hand facing down. Place your left hand across the palm of your right hand and pull up until you feel a stretch in the forearm and/or wrist. Repeat for the left arm.

Forearm wrist stretch

Place your hands together in a prayer position. Apply gentle pressure allowing your palms to make contact and your wrists to bend back, until you feel a stretch on the back of your forearm.

Rotate fingers

With your right-hand face down on your lap, rotate each finger in turn. Repeat with your left hand.

Wrist forearm stretch

With your arms hanging by your sides, bend one hand back at the wrist. Raise the arm in front of you, hold for a few seconds then slowly drop your arm to your side. Repeat with the other arm.

Wrist stretch

Hold both arms straight out, palms away from you. Bend your hands down until you feel a slight stretch on the back of your wrists. Hold for a few seconds then raise your hands into a flat position.

Arms across chest

Raise your right arm to near shoulder level. Grasp behind the right elbow with your left hand and pull the arm across your chest until you feel a stretch on the back of the right shoulder. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat with the other arm.

Arms behind back

Stand up. Clasp your hands behind your back then push out your chest. Stretch your shoulders backwards, pulling the shoulder blades together to feel a stretch across your upper and lower back.

Ceiling stretch

Stretch your right hand straight up towards the ceiling. Hold for 5 seconds. Lower your arm. Repeat with your left hand.

Lean back

Make sure there is plenty of room behind your chair. Put your hands behind your head and lean back in your chair. DO NOT lean so far back that your chair becomes unstable.

Pull shoulders back

Sitting upright in your chair (so that your back is not touching the back rest), pull your shoulders backwards until you feel a slight stretch across your chest.

Relax back

Move your chair back from your desk. Lean forward, resting your forearms on your knees. Relax for 5-10 seconds before returning to your normal seated position.


Close and open your eyes several times to relax and moisten your eyes.

Look into the distance

Periodically focus on an object that is at least 10′ (3m) away from your desk (as this helps to work the distance muscles of your eyes).

Roll eyes

Roll your eyes several times, looking around the room as you do so.

Head turn

Slowly turn your head to the side until you feel a slight stretch in your neck muscles. Repeat, turning to the other side, remembering to move your neck slowly.

Neck tuck

Drop your head down onto your chest until you feel a slight stretch across the back of your neck. Hold for a few seconds then raise your head.

Sleep well, live and work well

Working from home can be challenging. The commute home from work is usually a great disconnect and gives us the chance to relax and reflect on your day. When working from home it can be difficult to “switch off” as you are living and working in the same space. There are some tips that can help:

  • Finish your work at the same time as you normally would.
  • Pack your work belongings away so you are not tempted to return to work.
  • If you can, do something distracting. For example:
    • Listen to music
    • Go for a walk
    • Video-chat with friends
    • Try some light exercise

Overall, it is important to maintain a daily routine. Make sure you go to bed and get up at the same time.

Working from home, your personal plan

Over the past few days you have received a number of emails with suggestions to keep you safe, well and productive. Here is a brief reminder of the key points:

  • Comfort Remember to listen to your body. If you feel uncomfortable, get up, move and stretch. If you experience pain, please report it to your manager.
  • Communication Don’t forget to stay in touch with your colleagues. If you are feeling isolated, the chances are they are too. Pick up the phone, check in regularly and if you feel like you need support, tell someone. Make sure you are clear about what your manager expects from you.
  • Emergencies Make sure you have a plan in case you fall ill, have an accident or experience a fire. Check your fire alarms, don’t overload plug sockets and carry your phone with you at all times.
  • Equipment Make sure your cabling for your laptop or other work device does not create a tripping hazard. It may sound patronising but we are generally more complacent at home as the environment is familiar to us. This complacency can cause risks we might not foresee.
  • Report it Most important, if you have an issue or anything concerns you, whether it relates to comfort, workload, potential or actual risks, you must report it to your manager or health and safety colleague immediately.

Working from home, medical emergencies

Welcome to working from home. You may be a seasoned home-worker or this may be your first time. Either way there are some simple but effective things you can do to keep yourself comfortable, healthy and productive.

As a homeworker you may be working alone. It is therefore important you have an action plan in case you hurt yourself or become unwell. One of the best things you can do is to carry your mobile phone with you at all times. If you were to fall, you may struggle to get to your phone to summon help.

The severity of your illness or injury will determine whether you phone 111 or 999. Dial 111 for less serious issues or to get advice on whether you need to seek further medical support. 999 should only be used in an emergency situation. Why not download the St. John Ambulance app? This has some great first-aid advice.

If you feel you are at greater risk or have an underlying condition and you need additional support speak with your manager or health and safety colleagues.

Working from home, it’s good to talk

Working from home can feel lonely, especially if you are not used to it. These feeling of loneliness can be compounded if you are self-isolating and avoiding physical contact with family and friends.

In extreme cases of loneliness or feeling of desperation you should reach out to the Samaritans on 116123 or email

There are some brilliant things you can do to help connect with yourself and others. Why not consider:

  • Talk to your Colleagues. Make sure you stay in regular contact with your colleagues. Consider video-conferencing and picking up the phone rather than emailing. Working from home often means you miss out on the office-news, why not set up a short, virtual coffee-meeting with your colleagues so you keep up with what’s going on?
  • Be comfortable about what is being asked of you. It is easy to worry about what others think of you. Some people worry whether their manager is happy with their work or worried they are not working hard enough. If you start to feel concerned pick up the phone and speak with your manager. They are there to help you – after all, the more productive you are, the more productive they are!
  • Exercise! Your mental wellbeing can be improved with exercise. If you can, go for a walk. If you are self-isolating and have a garden take a few minutes to stretch and exercise outside. If not, you can still get a light workout indoors. The NHS has a great guide which be accessed here.
  • Sunlight and fresh air is important too. If you step outside on a sunny day you will get a healthy boost of vitamin D. Use your garden, balcony or even simply open a window!
  • Socialising. Even in times of self-isolation we can still keep in touch with our friends and family. Pick up the phone and use social media platforms. Why not reacquaint yourself with those you have lost touch with?

Loneliness and feelings of isolation are completely normal. Sometimes though these feelings can overwhelm us. Remember there are things you can do and organisations who can help.

Working from home, fire safety

Fire is a risk wherever we work and live. If a fire were to break out do you have a plan to escape?

Tips for avoiding fire in your home:

  • To avoid fire risk, do not overload electrical outlets.
  • Do not place electrical cords under rugs or cover them with other materials.
  • Switch off and unplug your work devices at the end of each day.
  • Check your smoke alarms are working.
  • If you are a smoker, try to avoid smoking in the area you work in.

If a fire breaks out only tackle it if it is small and you are confident you have the means to do it. DO NOT TAKE RISKS, fire can spread quickly and unpredictably. Your best option is to get out or follow the advice you have been given for your building and dial the emergency services.

Plan how you would escape and share this information with everyone else you live with.

Working from home, eat well, feel well

Obviously, working from home is different to working in an office but our behaviours can differ too. A new working structure can introduce habits we do not necessarily want, such as eating too much, too little or eating the wrong types of food.

Here are a few tips to help you to eat well:

  • Try to eat lunch and snacks at the same time as you would in the office. Try to eat the same types of food too.
  • Keep treats out of sight (or out of reach!)
  • Take a break from your working area to eat your lunch. The act of getting up and moving will help you keep focused and energised.
  • If you find yourself snacking too often, try drinking a glass of water instead, it should suppress the feelings of hunger.

Do you feel lethargic? It could be you are so focussed you have simply forgotten to eat. In the office, you have triggers such as colleagues getting up for lunch. Without these triggers, you may simply forget.

Remember, your health and wellbeing is the most important thing to us. This homeworking period is temporary and difficult for all of us, we are here to support you through this challenging period

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