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Remote Working: Are you compliant?

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Flexible working has been practiced for many years and the right for employees to request flexible arrangements is now fully enshrined in UK statute law. One quarter of office workers now have some form of flexible working contract and 4.2 million people spend at least half their working time at home which suggests remote working has become the norm in the modern workplace.

Remote working is more than flexible working. It is a business solution that incorporates technology and a revised management style to offer choice of when and where to work. Remote working comes under many guises which all have their own nuances. For example, it may be referred to as “new ways of working”, “agile working” or “activity based working”. Remote working may be defined as undertaking work activities away from the normal office base in locations such as client premises, in transit, at home and from third places, such as a coffee bar or library etc.

There are many proven benefits to remote working, for both the staff and organisation. Traditionally, the key driver is financial i.e. reducing space, property and infrastructure costs. However, often bigger benefits come through increased empowerment of people to find their best way of working. This creates productivity gains, reduces travel time, decreases absenteeism and improves staff attraction and retention, by increasing diversity through trust and better work-life balance. Another benefit is improved organisational resilience.

However, with these benefits comes responsibilities. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) requires that employers provide “the provision and maintenance of a working environment for employees that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe, without risks to health, and adequate as regards facilities and arrangements for their welfare at work”.

ACAS (2014) clarifies that whilst the health and safety of home workers is a little different to office-based staff, employers have a duty of care for all their employees, and the requirements of the Act apply to home and remote workers. As a minimum “the employer is responsible for carrying out a risk assessment to check whether the proposed home workplace’s ventilation, temperature, lighting, space, chair, desk and computer, or any kind of workstation, and floor are suitable for the tasks the home worker will be carrying out”. It may be necessary for the employer to visit the homes of workers to carry out a risk assessment, but in most cases, it can be done with the co-operation of the home worker. Furthermore, the employer is responsible for all the equipment it supplies to its workers, regardless of the location.

The duty of care of the employer extends to assessing suitability of the individual employee ensuring they have the necessary skills, training, support and tools to work safely, securely and effectively in remote environments. This requires policies, guides and appropriate training for staff and their managers as well as audit trails and reviews to ensure ongoing competence, compliance and engagement. Employer ignorance and lack of structured support for remote working employees is no defence if problems arise.

One often-cited reason that organisations and managers ignore remote working health and safety responsibilities is the belief that as employees make the choice to occasionally work outside the office then health and safety is also their own responsibility. However, this is not strictly the case and a difficult interpretation to uphold in a court of law.

In fact, the legislation is clear and yet many organisations ignore or are oblivious to the health and safety requirements of their workers outside of the office. Whilst, there has not yet been any significant documented court case in which a remote worker has made a claim against their employer, there are several law firms offering “no-win no-fee” support for such claims and so it is surely just a matter of time.

However, it is not just the employer that has responsibility. The employee also has obligations to work within defined company and legal boundaries when working remotely and particularly in the home. For instance, they must rectify any flaws in the home highlighted by the mandatory risk assessment and, once the home has passed the assessment, they are responsible for its upkeep. Employees also have personal responsibility for any office equipment or furniture that they personally provide for working at home. Furthermore, there are implications for home insurance, planning permission and income tax.

Mobile communication is now common practice and can lead to “always on” cultures. Without establishing clear boundaries for employees, this can lead to wellbeing issues. Legislation regarding remote work is becoming more stringent in Europe. For example, in France companies are now obliged to agree that employee may switch off their mobile devices outside of normal work hours to reduce intrusion into their private lives. There is likely to be pressure for the UK to follow a similar path.

Nevertheless, it is clear that remote working is on the increase and, if done properly, it offers many benefits to the staff and business. But these benefits cannot be claimed without providing a safe and healthy environment for all employees. If you need further help to ensure you comply with legislation then contact Remote Works for a consultation.

From an original blog by Remote Works.

Workplace Trends Spring Summit Round Up

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On 22 March 180+ workplace professionals – occupiers, consultants, designers and architects – attended our Workplace Trends Spring Summit on Wellbeing and Productivity at Kings Place, London.

The conversation still continues following the event, and here are just a few of the related items.

  • Saint-Gobain Ecophon recorded a series of podcasts with our speakers during the conference. Listen to the first of them to be released here. 
  • Nigel Oseland has published a blog post based on of his presentation “Can workplace design really enhance innovation & creativity?”. Read the full blog here.
  • Our delegates from CMI Workplace have published their highlights from the day. Read it here.
  • Neil Usher, aka workessence, live blogged our four conference sessions throughout the day. You can find the first one, “eaten by aardvarks” here. Press ‘next’ for the further three sessions.
  • Artist Simon Heath was also very busy! His visual record of the sessions can be found at http://docdro.id/XzDajHe
  • Saint-Gobain Ecophon ran their complementary workshop ‘Psychological & Physiological Factors in Office Design’ the day before the conference. You can read the full Twitter Storify record on this link. A literature review and the full download of the related publication ‘A Psychological Approach to Resolving Office Noise Distraction’ can also be seen here.
  • Our supporters at Interface had copies of their publication 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design available to all delegates. If you missed collecting your copy, see Terrapin Bright Green’s full publication download and others on the Human Spaces website.
  • Conference Live Tweet Blog: Our friend Su Butcher recorded the whole day on our live Tweet Blog. You can read the full version here.
  • On that theme, Twitter and Social Media fans will be interested in the results of our Twitter reach from the conference. You can read the full report at http://docdro.id/D3gX04P, but briefly the conference had 245 people using the hashtag #wtrends; 1065 tweets were sent which potentially reached 480,000 accounts, 5.8 million times (that is tweets with the hashtag appeared on twitter 5.8 million times in 480,000 people’s feeds).
  • We’re now busy planning our next events! We have Post Occupancy Evaluation workshops coming up very soon with Nigel Oseland, our Learning Environments Conference in June this year, and of course our October Workplace Trends conference.

Can Workplace Design Enhance Creativity?

Guest Post by Nigel Oseland, Workplace Unlimited

This blog is based on the presentation I gave at the Workplace Trends conference last week, which in turn was based on a presentation I gave at an Innovation Exchange in Lisbon. The room was full of scientists presenting their latest inventions and chemical formulas, and they asked me to present on how the workplace design could assist them. Well I’m always up for a challenge and an all-expenses paid trip to Portugal.

The subject of creativity and innovation is much broader than advances in science. In the UK, we have a tendency to lead in new economic eras only to lose our edge to overseas copycats. It happened with the secondary economic sector, manufacturing like automotive, and it has happened more recently with the tertiary service industry. But we have entered a new quaternary economic age, that of innovation, and as workplace specialists one of our most important jobs is to facilitate innovation and creativity in our workforce. Innovation doesn’t just apply to the creative industries – having a good idea applies to all areas for example creating more efficient process or better customer service as well as new products.

When reading around the subject I found lots of research on creativity. However, it was mostly reported in the business management literature (check out Ideo’s recent survey) or in neuroscience research papers. There was relatively very little on environmental impact. So, does this mean workplace design is considered not important or just not considered?

These spaces, above, are clearly innovative workplaces but are they spaces that foster innovation? Do slides, bean bags, games, grassy seats or trampolines result in higher creativity? Well possibly, a little, but I think innovation starts with people – psychology and culture, rather than with design gimmicks … Read More

Workplace Trends Top Picks

We spend a lot of time at Workplace Trends watching tweets and posts about the workplace. Here are a few of our favourites from the last few days that we thought you might enjoy.


Til desk do us part: Will offices of the future have desks? Nigel Oseland muses this on on behalf of the WCO

Is the traditional office desk obsolete? The desk, the workstation, that slab of “wood” that the majority of office workers sit at is getting smaller. Gone are the days of the 1800 x 1800 mm corner core, and my 2 m wide and 1 m deep bench desk at an architect’s practice; the 1600 mm wide homogenous bench has become a 1400 mm and recently I worked with an NHS Trust where the standard workstation was a mere 1200 mm but the facilities team were actually rolling out 1 m “back to school” style desks…

Read More…


Office design must work for people of every age – and keep them well

With four generations in the workplace for the first time, it is now more important than ever that the physical office environment is able to accommodate different working styles,

Nicola Gillen, global practice lead of strategy at AECOM writes…

Read More…


The Science of the Workplace: Ten demonstrable truths about the workplace you may not know

If you missed Kerstin Sailer speaking at last October’s Workplace Trends Conference, her article for Workplace Insight covers some of what she spoke about.

The science of the workplace has gained a lot of interest over the last few years, highlighting recurring patterns of human behaviour as well as how organisational behaviour relates to office design. In theory, knowledge from this growing body of research could be used to inform design. In practice, this is rarely the case. A survey of 420 architects and designers highlighted a large gap between research and practice…

Read More…


It’s a fact: Live plants & natural light in an office space impact creativity.

Should a ‘work’ place be any different from the other spaces people inhabit? The relationship between individuals and their environment can be a crucial determinant of how they feel, perform and interact with others. So, designing spaces that inspire, energize and support the people who use them is a global imperative. People’s connection to nature – biophilia– is an emergent field that can help organisations meet that challenge. This unique study from Human Spaces explores the relationship between psychological well-being, work environments and employee expectations on a global scale for the first time…

Read or download the report…


Can we enhance student living environments to better respond to the needs of today’s students?

Thinking ahead to our next Learning Environments Conference, this recent research caught our eye. Gensler conducted a three-year study focused on student life on university campuses, and the role of the residence hall in fostering student success. In the first phase of the research, they examined the study habits of high school seniors using surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews to document their preferred methods of learning before attending university…

Read or download the report…


Workplace Trends Spring Summit: Wellbeing & Productivity

Don’t forget to book your early bird tickets for Workplace Trends: Wellbeing & Productivity on 22 March at Kings Place, London. Workplace Trends is the most intellectually stimulating, independent, pitch-free and sociable Workplace event of the year. Join 150+ workplace designers and occupiers to learn and discuss issues including Biomimicry & Biophilic Design, Designing for Creativity, Collaboration & Concentration, Using Building Data, Technology & Innovation, & The WELL Building Standard…

Read More…

Workplace Trends – The First 15 Years

Our Workplace Trends Conference is in its 15th year! Nigel Oseland and I took a look back through the archives and reminded ourselves of some of the highlights.

Back in 2012 we were already running with a Wellbeing & Performance theme and were delighted to welcome TED speaker Nic Marks to talk about “How (and why) Happiness Works as a Business Model”. You can see his presentation on our YouTube channel here.

2012 also saw Mark Duddridge of Ginsters & consultant Jane Abraham take us through their project to improve heath, engagement, and productivity at the famous Cornish pasty company. Quite a challenge but they succeeded! You can re-live the presentation here, and the graphics are on our slideshare page here.

This was a memorable year, in particular with the thought-provoking Doug Shaw‘s presentation, “Dehumanising the Workplace”. See it here for some good insights, and stay til the end to witness the first and most welcome guitar on stage at a Workplace Trends conference.

In 2013 we were honoured to have Frank Duffy give the keynote speach on “Making it Work”.

Three years earlier our audience was fascinated to hear from Professor Robin Dunbar on “The Social Brain in the Work Place”. At a time when LinkedIn and Facebook were just becoming mainstream, Dunbar’s Number of 150 (the optimum number of people one can comfortably maintain a stable relationship with) and associated findings, is still as relevant today.

Over the last decade we’ve witnessed the explosion of social media. For Workplace Trends we’re most active on Twitter and LinkedIn. Our LinkedIn group is approaching 8,000 members – please do join! And our twitter following is more than 4,000. Su Butcher expertly tweet blogs at each conference, and with her help we’ve achieved a remarkable reach of 4+ million impressions on one day’s conference.

Nature and the workplace has been a recurring theme for Workplace Trends. In 2011 the audience was enthralled to hear Eden Project architect Michael Pawlyn of Exploration Architecture talk on Biomimicry. Unfortunately this was before we started recording presentations, but you can experience his TED talk from the previous year on this link.

This nature theme continued in 2015’s conference “Wellness and Heath” when we were delighted to welcome Bill Browning from Terrapin Bright Green in the US. Bill spoke on how nature and biophilic design can reduce stress, enhance creativity and clarity of thought, improve our well-being and expedite healing. If you’d like to know more there are several free reports available from the Terrapin Bright Green website.

We’ll be continuing to look at the uses of Nature in the workplace and its impact on productivity at our Spring Summit on 22 March 2017 when we’re excited to welcome Richard James MacCowan of Biomimicry UK and architect, author and TV presenter Oliver Heath. 

Regular delegates will have enjoyed Paul Morrell‘s regular contributions to Workplace Trends. Sometimes delivering a keynote but most often he took the baton of the after-lunch slot and a lively debate ensued, each year with a variety of worthy opponents – Paul Burgess, Paul Finch, Mat Oakley, and Philip Tidd among them.

Finally we can’t complete this look back without a mention of Neil Usher, (Sky and Workessence) who has been a constant supporter of Workplace Trends, sometimes speaking, live-blogging, chairing, even delivering poetry and most memorably in 2014 as Workstock, hosting a fast-paced Pecha Kucha session with guests Brian Condon, Lloyd Davis, Jon Husband, Gareth Jones, Richard Martin, Anne Marie McEwan, Janet Parkinson, Euan Semple, Andy Swann, Doug Shaw and Perry Timms. If you haven’t come across Pecha Kucha before it’s a presentation style where 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each. The format, which keeps presentations concise and fast-paced, delivers maximum information in a measured time-frame. The pressure on the speakers was evident, but each one rose admirably to the challenge and a good time was had by all!

So that is the first 15 years! In 2014 we introduced the Spring Summit, to keep the conversation going between the regular autumn events. So right now we’re looking forward to our 2017 summit – Workplace Trends: Wellbeing and Productivity at Kings Place on 22nd March. At time of writing you can still register at the early bird rate. Check the conference page for all the details on speakers and delegates registered to date. Hope to see you there!

Maggie Procopi
Workplace Trends