Many staff will have been working at home for some time now, but if you are new to remotely managing blind or partially sighted employees there are some areas you should consider.
As an Employer you are responsible for your employee’s health, safety and welfare, even when they are working from home. Conduct a risk assessment for your teams to ensure the home workplace is suitable and appropriate. Make sure the risk assessment is accessible for a blind or partially sighted employee by doing it over the telephone or creating a simple form to be completed by the employee. You will need to keep a note of the risk assessment and share it with the employee.
Areas of concern for blind or partially sighted employees working from home may include lighting, and even though the assessment is in the employee's home you will still need to include slip and trip hazards and fire escape plans. It is the employee's responsibility to address any issues in their home revealed by the assessment.
Make sure staff know your health and safety policies, and remember, if you supply equipment it must pass relevant safety tests.
Display Screen Equipment and Workstation Assessments should also be included in a risk assessment.
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health has useful material on managing employees working from home, including an Assessment checklist for remote working.
Provision of suitable computer and access technology equipment could be a reasonable adjustment for blind or partially sighted employees. Our website has lots more information about reasonable adjustments.
If your member of staff has equipment in the office and is now permanently working from home perhaps that equipment could be couriered to them. Keep a signed list of anything that is moved from your office and make sure your usage policies are up to date.
If new equipment is needed for a blind or partially sighted member of staff, consider making use of a government scheme called Access to Work. Access to Work pays a discretionary grant towards any extra employment costs that result from a disability/long term health condition. It applies to people working from home and assessments can be carried out remotely if necessary. Find out more about Access to Work on our website.
Your staff member may need help with set up, and support with the software. If you have an IT team, check with them to see if they can remotely access your systems to help fix any problems your blind or partially sighted staff might have. The main software suppliers are all keen to help employees working at home. You can make use of their support teams who may be able to remotely access your staff members computer.
It’s important to keep some structure and continuity, so keep on doing regular one-to-ones and team meetings. Working from home can leave employees feeling isolated and disconnected from their colleagues so it’s important to stay in touch.
Your homeworking policy should address how employees will be supervised and how you will communicate with them and how performance will be monitored. Remind employees that they should continue to comply with your policies, including sickness absence and report to their line manager when they are sick. As an employer, encourage people to take time off if they are unwell.
During one-to-ones plan to ask some specific questions about working from home to help discover some of the issues your blind or partially sighted employees might be dealing with. Make sure your staff member knows who to contact if they require assistance, that they are aware of employee assistance programmes and know how to contact their colleagues.
Try to make sure the tools you are using for collaboration are working out for your blind or partially sighted staff, make sure the audio and visual aspects are appropriate.
Ask questions that will help you monitor an employee’s mental health. Listen closely to what is said in order to get the sense of what your employees are feeling or thinking, particularly in more challenging conversations.
Most of all, involve your blind or partially sighted member of staff. Ask how you can better support them and don’t make assumptions or judgements about what is needed to make things better or more efficient.
Don’t be afraid to use video calling. Most people who are registered blind or partially sighted have some useful vision and seeing each other is an important part of keeping connected.
There are many free or inexpensive solutions for video chat (like Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts) and these platforms are accessible to staff using assistive technology.
It might be useful to provide blind or partially sighted staff with headsets or earphones. These give better sound quality. Speak directly into the mic and remember to mute it when not speaking to limit background noise.
It’s also OK to do a presentation when you have a blind or partially sighted person on the team. Keep slides simple and make sure what you are saying covers all points on the slide so blind or partially sighted people don’t miss out. Make sure you describe any visual elements, like graphs or pictures. It’s can be helpful to email the presentation to blind or partially sighted staff members either in advance or after the presentation finishes.