The Socialist 1 April 2020 |
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Working from home during the pandemic
A worker in the heritage sector
People's experience of the transition to working fulltime from home varies.
Many financial sector employers were more prepared. This was partly because their profits are better protected by a healthy workforce.
This is in stark contrast to 'non-essential' public services, such as the heritage sector. National heritage institutions only started to close their doors to the public one or two days after Boris Johnson's 16 March announcement that people should stay at home.
Nothing for staff
The heritage sector adheres to international standards to ensure there are comprehensive disaster plans for their collection items. However, this crisis has proven that many don't have any comprehensive plan for staff when their health and safety is at risk.
We were told simply to just wash our hands, and had very little access to preventative tools to stop the spread of the virus. It was obvious management were floundering.
Our employers have reiterated that they understand that people can't be as productive as they usually are in the office. However, they haven't spelt out what this means.
Many homes are not equipped to be full-time workplaces. Many people have children and other caring responsibilities to deal with on top of their work duties.
Many are working from their kitchen table, flatpack desks bought online or even the sofa. Sometimes more than one person is working from home.
Although some employers have circulated Health and Safety Executive guidelines, what happens if our homes fail these assessments?
What about your health?
Working for long periods of time without ergonomic chairs, height-adjustable desks or other equipment needed to create a comfortable working environment could aggravate current health issues or cause future ones.
Many people want to continue working, so it is important to ensure that you are a member of a trade union. Although unions can't meet in person, many union branches are busy working together to secure more favourable pay and working-from-home conditions. (See 'Organising in the workplace in the time of coronavirus').
The trade union movement must be campaigning for full pay for all staff. But also that we should be working a lot fewer hours.
This would offset the additional costs incurred at home - energy and other utility bills. However, most importantly, this would help offset the health and safety risk of working from home.