The Corona crisis has resulted in more work-from-home days for many. But what are the rules on working environment, and what are the advantages/disadvantages of working from home?

The Corona crisis has forced many of us to pack down our offices for a while and instead perform the daily work from home. To some it is a completely new situation, to others it is an increase of already existing work-from-home days. It has also made a number of questions more relevant as to how the employer ensures in the best possible way a healthy and productive home working environment. The employer must be aware of a number of issues if work from home is to be a success for both the employer as well as the employee.

Rules

Working environmental legislation generally applies even though the employee performs work from home. However, the rules on fitting up of the home workplace apply only if work from home is carried out at a regular basis, and the working hours at the employee’s home correspond as a minimum to one day each week or approx. two hours each day.

If work from home is carried out at a regular basis, the employer must ensure that the home workplace has appropriate office equipment for the employee to perform his work in a healthy and safe manner. This means:

  • That there must be sufficient space for appropriate work positions.
  • That the work tools such as table, chair, computer screen, etc. must be fitted to the employee.
  • That the employee is entitled to an eye test, and, if the eye test shows that it is necessary, the employee is entitled to appropriate assistive devices.
  • That the employer must arrange the work so that breaks and interruptions of the work are placed on a regular basis.

To observe the rules, the employer must make a workplace assessment in which it is agreed how and with which tools work from home is to be carried out. However, the employer is not entitled or obligated to carry out supervision, and the employee must therefore contribute to the work being carried out within the rules of working environmental legislation. In practice, this may be a difficult task to handle which requires good communication and cooperation between the employer and the employee.

Rest periods

The rules on rest periods also apply when the employee is working from home. The employee must therefore also have a rest period of at least 11 consecutive hours within every period of 24 hours and one weekly rest period.

However, the above may be departed from if the employee works partly from home and is free to arrange his/her working hours and rest periods. The rules therefore open up for the employee being able to arrange his/her working hours and rest periods in a more flexible manner when working from home. But it is still a requirement that the sum of the rest periods is minimum 11 hours within a period of 24 hours.

In relation to work from home, the rules on rest periods may also be departed from by general agreement between the employer and the employee organisation, and the daily rest period may be postponed or reduced to eight hours and/or the weekly rest period may be rearranged so that there are 12 days between two rest periods. Agreements which depart to a wider extent from the rules on rest periods must be approved by the Working Environment Service.

Finally, the rules on rest periods when working from home may be departed from by special agreement between the employee and the employer organisation as long as the work is performed in a healthy and safe manner and the employee is generally granted corresponding compensatory rest periods.

Challenges in connection with work from home

For many, it undoubtedly sounds tempting with a day or two each week where you do not have to wear presentable clothes, you can avoid transportation and have more time with your family. An increasing part of the workforce therefore chooses to have permanent work-from-home days.

This development may in many ways be positive for both the employer and the employee, but you still need to be aware of the challenges that may arise in the aftermath of the increasing number of work-from-home days.

Technically and structurally, most workplaces are adapted by now so that work from home is not that big of a challenge. But you should keep in mind that social contact with colleagues is important for the well-being of many employees. For most, the lack of personal relations with colleagues thus decreases our job satisfaction.

For some, frequent work from home may make them feel ignored both socially and in their career as they are less visible than the ones who are at the workplace. The employer must therefore ensure a good communication so that the employees working from home feel that their work performance is being seen and recognised.

Also, many have a tendency to mix work and private life too much when working from home. You should therefore try to make agreements as to when you work, which assignments to finish at which date, etc. to create a good structure in relation to work and private time which may in the end give a better environment when working from home and a more effective use of the working hours.

So, not only the physical surroundings of the home office should be ensured but also very much the internal communication at the workplace. If you succeed with this, many of the challenges may be solved, and both the employer and the employee may enjoy the upsides of work from home.

Positive results of work from home

For many, flexibility at the workplace is important to make everyday life add up. The possibility of arranging the work yourself is therefore appealing to many. However, work from home and flexibility are not only to the benefit of the employee. Increased flexibility for the employee may create increased motivation and job satisfaction which may contribute to retaining and recruiting new employees.

Another upside of work from home is that you may draw a little extra on the employees during busy periods against these being able to take time off during less busy periods.

In addition to flexibility, increased job satisfaction and motivation, you often also see greater efficiency in connection with work from home. Among others, because many can work more undisturbed at home. However, this requires a more structured approach to work from home, and the employer may assist with advice and guidance.

So, there are immediate upsides of work from home, both from the perspective of the employer and the employee. But it requires good planning and goodwill before it is a success. Below, we have listed a number of useful tips for the employer to consider in connection with the establishment of a home office:

Useful tips on a healthy home office culture

  • Make a clear agreement specifying the content of the work from home.
  • Coordinate the assignments and working hours so that the workload is appropriate.
  • Consider whether the employee is suited socially and experience-wise for work from home.
  • Consider whether the assignments are suited for work from home.
  • Ensure that it is physically possible to fit up an appropriate home office.
  • Ensure that the management has considered how to manage employees who are not physically present.
  • Ensure that you are technically equipped so that a good communication can be maintained, including video meetings, etc.
  • Ensure that you have a good balance between work from home and work at the workplace so that social relations are maintained and developed.

Authors

Jonas Enkegaard

Partner (L)

Erik Wendelboe Christiansen

Attorney (H)

Signe Rydahl Werming

Senior Attorney