Working from home
This guideline provides information on how the University of Otago (the University) supports staff working from home as a flexible workplace. Working from home must maintain the following requirements:
- The personal safety and wellbeing of the employee, and
- University information and business is safe and secure.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 section 20 defines a workplace:
- In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, a workplace-
- Means a place where work is being carried out, or is customarily carried out, for a business or undertaking; and
- Includes any place where a worker goes, or is likely to be, while at work.
- In this section, place includes-
- A vehicle, vessel, aircraft, ship, or other mobile structure; and
- Any waters and any installation on land, on the bed of any waters, or floating on any waters.
WorksafeNZ define working from home as someone who does office-type work in their home or equivalent location, rather than at their PCBU's (or employers) premises. This includes an employee that works from home on a part- or full-time basis, or a contractor engaged to carry out work.
This information is also relevant for any worker who occasionally works on-the-go from various other locations (for example, from improvised setting such as a coffee shop or airport, or a temporary working space).
It is an expectation from WorkSafeNZ that PCBUs who provide working from home arrangements have the following processes in place:
- Ensure workers view are considered in the appropriateness of working from home
- Talk with workers about any risks that may arise from working from home and how these can be either eliminated or else minimised
- Have clear, effective, and ongoing ways for workers to suggest improvements to raise concerns on a day-to-day basis
- Continue to ensure risks to workers' health and safety are managed effectively.
These guidelines provide general information on the common health and safety risks that staff working from home may encounter. Discuss any specific concerns with your line manager for advice and support on managing the risks associated with your situation. Additional guidance is available from the University Health and Safety Office:
Health and Safety
To work from home successfully, you should identify and define your work area. A separate workspace is ideal, but it that is not practical, identify your work area/location, and only work there for your designated work time. This helps keep the home/work demarcations in place to assist with your wellbeing. Advise your family and others that this is where you will be working, and to minimise access to this space during work hours.
Making sure your workstation set up is optimal is critical for your comfort and wellbeing. Please assess your workstation set up using the following form:
If you are experiencing difficulties getting comfortable at home, you can forward the completed assessment to firstname.lastname@example.org for further advice. If you want assistance with your workstation assessment, an OHN can conduct a virtual workstation assessment.
An adjustable chair is important, and you can take your University chair from work home for working from home. Contact your manager to arrange this or request a suitable office chair.
Your work bench or desk height should be between 680mm and 735mm. Be mindful of kitchen benches, as these are usually too high to use comfortably for long periods of time. Older style desks can have deep front panels or desktop thickness, raising your arms to the keyboard and can result in pain and discomfort. The recommended desktop thickness is to be as thin as possible, and not exceeding 33mm.
Laptop computers are only suitable for short term work. Arrange to have a separate screen and keyboard provided for you to use at home.
Security and privacy
The Privacy Guidelines outlines staff responsibilities with respect to information access and applied to all staff regardless of work location. Staff working from home are required to provide a secure, private and quiet work location that affords similar privacy for consumers (other staff and students) as that provided in the on-campus environment.
To prevent the accidental disclosure of University consumer information, the home office or workspace should not be shared with others while you are working, and if possible, shut the door, to prevent others overhearing conversations. Ensure computer screens are set up in such a manner to prevent visibility from windows. Ensure you have somewhere private to go to for confidential discussions on the phone or similar.
Staff are expected to minimise the use of paper copies and notes of consumer information. Where notes are taken on paper, or paper back up forms are used, the paper must be kept secure and shredded before disposal or returned to the workplace for filing or confidential disposal.
Staying in touch with your team
Your manager will advise of any staff or team zoom meetings, please attend if possible, just to keep in touch. Many groups of staff set up regular contact points, such as the quiz, virtual morning teas or end of week social zooms. It helps to keep in touch with each other.
Managing meetings online
Zoom meetings require more intense concentration as you cannot see or read body language or gauge responses as well. Keep meetings short, and make sure you do not book back to back meetings. The same meeting rules apply – have an agenda, keep on topic and only meet for as long as possible. If you find the meetings are being used to “catch up”, schedule a stay in touch meeting with your team, such as a quiz, virtual morning tea or something similar.
Headsets are essential for those staff who are discussing confidential information and / or where the working from home environment contains distractions. Using a headset is unusual for many of us and we need time to adjust. Remember that others in the vicinity can hear what you are saying!
Following the previous advice on avoiding back to back meetings and taking breaks will assist with the use of headsets. Remember to have a change of scene and sometime without your headset on. Remove it when not in use if possible.
Taking breaks is critical – for your physical and mental health! Schedule your breaks and remove yourself from your designated workspace. You may find you need to take more frequent breaks, such as after each zoom meeting. Hydration and nutrition are important as your body and mind adjust to a new situation, plus the stressor of a new lock down or whatever the case may be. Maintain a routine as close as possible to your work routine with regards to breaks.
Incidents and injuries, ACC
While you are performing work tasks at home, any injuries or incidents relating to your work must be reported as per the University H&S Policy. You can report your incident through Vault, the online H&S reporting system, or you can ring and report to your manager.
If you require an ACC claim, the University will manage the claim cover and decision through the Accredited Employer Programme.
If the injury is not related to your work tasks, the ACC legislation may not cover your claim as a work claim (e.g., tripping over the dog). However, if you are injured you will still be covered by the ACC non-work provisions. If you have any concerns or questions, please contact H&S for further assistance:
An investigation of an incident or injury will be required and additional controls may be implemented.
The most commonly reported concern is pain and discomfort from workstations. This page includes information on how to set up your workstation and you are encouraged to complete a workstation assessment.
Early reporting of pain and discomfort is encouraged:
Your mental health
Working in a different environment can be challenging. Keeping in touch with your work colleagues and maintaining a social schedule will assist.
There are many forms of support for staff who are finding lock down and/or level changes difficult, for whatever reason.
Talk to your manager or supervisor
Make sure your work boundaries and expectations are clear. Make sure you take breaks and monitor your work hours.
Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
The University's EAP provider has a range of resources on their website. For more information, visit:
The first point of contact is:
Health and Wellbeing Toolkit Yammer Group
This includes safe and practical online resources to help you.
Occupational Health team
The Occupational Health team is available to assist employees with health and wellbeing queries, including meeting with you virtually on Zoom.
to arrange a meeting or phone call.
University Chaplaincy service
The University Chaplaincy service is available for students and staff: