Many people will have been working at home for some time now, but if you are new to this way of working, there are some areas you should consider.
We all share responsibility for our own health, safety and welfare, even when working from home. A risk assessment should be arranged by your employer to ensure the home workplace is suitable and appropriate. Your employer should talk to you about the risk assessment and make sure you get a copy in an appropriate format.
Even though you're in your home, your employer should be willing to discuss things such as lighting, slip and trip hazards and fire escape plans. You should be willing to deal with any risks in your home. It's also important that you make yourself aware of the company health and safety policies. Any equipment you are supplied with must also be safe to use.
Display screen equipment and workstation assessments should be carried out periodically, whether you are working from home or not.
2.1 Specialist technology
You may use computers with assistive technology and other equipment at work. If you have specialist access technology in the office and are now working from home, you should talk to your employer about having it delivered to you. Check if chairs/monitors/monitor arms/keyboards etc. could be couriered from your office. Your employer will need to keep records of the location of all equipment.
If equipment can't be sent to you, or if your needs have changed, you may want to discuss your needs with the government scheme called Access to Work. Access to Work pays a discretionary grant towards any extra employment costs that result from a disability or long-term health condition. It does apply to people working from home, and assessments can be carried out remotely if necessary. There’s lots more information about Access to Work here.
2.2 Set up and trouble shooting
You may need help with setting up equipment, or support with software. If you have an IT team, check with them to see if they can remotely access your systems to help fix any problems you might have. The main assistive software suppliers are keen to help employees working at home. You can make use of their support teams to help.
The Microsoft Disability Answer Desk is available to give customers with disabilities support with Office and Windows product issues, accessibility questions and use of assistive technology.
2.3 Adjust the settings
Your requirements might be a little different when working from home than they are in the office. Think about what simple adjustments you can make to compensate for the changed situation.
Move around the house to find the most comfortable lighting, which may not be in the office and might be different in the morning and the afternoon. You may be sitting closer to your monitor or further away than you were in the office. If you use magnification, adjust the settings to account for the new environment.
Working from home can lead to feelings of isolation and feeling disconnected from colleagues, so it helps to stay in touch. It’s important to keep some structure and continuity, so you should continue to participate in regular one-to-ones and team meetings.
If your company has a homeworking policy, this should address how you will be supervised, how you should communicate with your line manager and how performance will be monitored. You should continue to comply with your employer's policies, including any sickness absences. If you are unwell you should take time off, not keep working just because you are at home.
If you are struggling, speak to your line manager, a trade union rep or human resources colleague. Your line manager might be unaware of issues you are facing, so speak up during your one to one meetings and tell them what support you need to make things better or more efficient.
It's likely that your employer will hold team meetings by using telephone conferences or video-calling. It's important that you join these to keep up contact with your team.
Platforms like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype are accessible to people with sight loss, so don’t worry that you will be excluded. You should spend some time making yourself familiar with the way these platforms work, maybe by taking part in test calls with colleagues or friends.
It might be useful to ask for a headset or use earphones. These give better sound quality. Speak directly into the mic and remember to mute it when not speaking to limit background noise.
Some meetings will include a presentation. You can ask your line manager to email you the presentation either in advance or after the presentation finishes so that you are familiar with the contents.
Take time to consider your own wellbeing. Take breaks in the same way you would if you were in a workplace. Think about the effect working from home has on you, and look for support when you need it. Make sure you know who to contact if you require assistance, that you know how to contact your employee assistance programme if your workplace has one, and know how to contact your colleagues.
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If you would like to know more, please contact our Sight Loss Advice Service on 0303 123 9999.