What is agile working? The rise in a new trend
04 November 2020
The term ‘agile’ has been bandied about rather a lot among the unexpected changes that 2020 has brought, but just what is agile working and what are the risks associated with it?
Agile working is defined by flexibility. It involves having the technology, collaboration, facilities and choices available to work on tasks in the best way - regardless of where and when you are working. An example would be splitting your time between working at home and in the office.
The majority of UK workers associate ‘going to work’ with leaving our house in the early morning, commuting to our workplace - while attempting to remain calm during the morning traffic - and greeting our colleagues “good morning” as they stir their first coffee of the day.
However, COVID-19 put a stop to this when the UK government announced a lockdown which forced millions of employees to work from home, many of us wondering when we will next see our colleagues in the flesh rather than on Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Although homeworking was not new to everyone, the percentage of employed workers in the UK working remotely prior to the pandemic fluctuated at 4.7%. 
For those previously working at home with a dedicated workspace, little will have changed. But for temporary homeworkers, they continue to make do with short-term solutions such as kitchen tables and chairs or the comfort of their own bedroom. Now is the time organisations must begin to make decisions on how they plan to tackle the concept of agile working.
Why should workstation health and safety be prioritised?
The idea that you may be at risk while sitting at your workstation seems farfetched. Yet over the past six months, businesses and individuals are starting to understand the dangers of an incorrectly set-up workstation, and when you look at the statistics the risk has always been prevalent.
6.9 million working days were lost due to work-related MSK (musculoskeletal) disorders in 2018/2019, which is 24.5% of the 28.2 million days lost in total due to work-related illness and workplace injury. 
The HSE guidance on whether businesses should be conducting DSE (Display Screen Equipment) assessments may leave businesses in limbo. According to the HSE (3), there is no “increased” risk from DSE for those who are working at home temporarily, yet long-term homeworkers require a full workstation assessment to be carried out, providing appropriate equipment and advice.
The confusion lies between the terms temporary and long-term. The majority of ‘temporary’ homeworkers are facing their seventh month of working at home with no expectations for an immediate return to the workplace. Can this still be classed as temporary?
Health and safety is not just about being compliant, businesses must take responsibility themselves for the well-being and safety of their workforce, regardless of the guidance from UK government agencies. A CIPD report from 2019 found that 29% of employers were set to increase their spend on health and wellbeing by 2021.  This is a figure you hope will increase post COVID-19 to ensure employees are comfortable within their working environment.
Agile Working Policy
Businesses are now looking at ways to adapt to agile working. We have already seen Twitter, Google and Reuters make changes to their working policies, allowing employees to work remotely on a long-term basis. There are a number of areas to consider when switching to agile working, not only the physical safety of your workforce due to equipment and posture but also the mental side of stress and anxiety due to the lack of human interaction.
However, compliance with HSE regulations and ensuring the safety of those working remotely should be sustained on a continuous basis. Regular assessments and reports focusing on agile working health and safety should be completed to highlight those that are at risk and plan next actions on how the issues employees are facing can be closed out.
Workplace health and safety training
One of the key steps in mitigating the risks associated with homeworking in the current climate is to provide appropriate training for employees. This will allow them to gain an understanding of what agile working is and the various measures they can put in place within their current workstations in order to work safely.
Q-Pulse WorkRite is our complete health and safety learning management system. With a bank of courses to choose from, our e-learning materials touch upon every area of workplace health and safety. Allow employees to go beyond the basics of ‘what is agile working’ with our DSE training course for agile workers. The course gives both employee and employer everything they need to know to manage this aspect of safety and wellbeing during the current climate.
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