As COVID-19 spreads around the world, millions of people are finding their work lives disrupted as businesses close and we adopt social distancing to slow the coronavirus’ growth. For many, that means cut hours and even layoffs. For those fortunate enough to have the choice, it means working from home.
In light of the thousands of Canadians getting their first ever work-from-home experience, we’ve collected some helpful information on telecommuting.
Telecommuting (a.k.a. working from home or remote work) is not a new concept; over 1.7 million Canadians worked from home before the outbreak of COVID-19. That’s not including people who are self-employed.
Advances in technology have allowed companies to reduce their office space by having some (or all) of their employees work from home. Rather than commuting to a central office each day, telecommuters log on from their home.
Telecommuting lets companies reduce the size of their offices, thus saving money. For employees, working from home means no commute, which saves them both money and time.
When an employee works from home, typically their employer will supply the equipment they need. At the very least, they should have a company computer. They may also have some furniture depending on the arrangement they have with their employer.
If the employer owns the equipment and it is covered by their commercial insurance policy, then the telecommuting employee doesn’t need to cover it under their own home insurance policy.
If the employee is using their personal equipment for work, they would need to secure their own insurance coverage. Most home insurance policies will cap the maximum payable for business property at a relatively low level; others exclude business property entirely. Employees using their personal equipment for business purposes should contact their home insurance provider, to check what their policy already covers, and to purchase any additional protection they may require.
Less commonly, some agreements between employers and work-from-home employees may stipulate that the employee holds the company harmless for any loss or damage to company-issued property, like laptops or monitors. If such an agreement is in place, the employee would need to add Business Property coverage to their home insurance policy to cover the equipment.
Some insurance providers consider working from home to be “incidental business use,” which may or may not be excluded under a standard home insurance policy. If you’re newly working from home, speak to your insurance agent. You want to be sure that your coverage is right for your new situation.
Furthermore, there’s the issue of liability. There aren’t many added liability risks associated with working from home (assuming you do your work on a computer).
There is, however, one important exception:
If your work involves having visitors to your home (clients, delivery people, etc.), that is a potential liability exposure. If one of your visitors were to injure themselves, they could name you and your employer in a lawsuit. Your home insurance’s liability coverage may not respond, since the visit was business-related.
It’s best to avoid business-related visitors to your home. If you can’t, speak with your insurance agent to be certain about how your home insurance policy would respond to such situations.
Note that this information applies to working from home on behalf of an employer; home-based business or self-employment have their own home insurance considerations.
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Working from home has its advantages, but it also comes with challenges. Being stuck in the same environment night and day can make one feel quite weary and make it hard to be productive during work hours.
Keeping a neat and tidy workspace is one way to help yourself stay focused while working from home.
Keep your desk and the area around it tidy. The easiest way is to clean as you go. Store or throw away papers and other trash as soon as you’re finished using them.
If you can avoid it, eat your meals away from your work desk. You’ll keep your keyboard crumb-free and stepping away from your desk occasionally throughout the day is nice too.
Take a moment to unplug your keyboard and carry it over to the sink or trashcan. Turn it upside down and slap it a few times to knock free anything that’s fallen underneath the keys. It’s not a bad idea to clean and disinfect the surface, either.
It can be tempting to move around the house throughout your workday, particularly if you work on a laptop. Instead, set up a dedicated work spot and try to keep your work there. Even if you live in a small apartment, pick a corner and treat it like a home office.
If you’re setting up a new computer for work, take time to run the cables properly. Neat and tidy cables help make your workspace look less cluttered, and it’s easier to clean around them compared to a messy cable nest.
Working from home can feel lonely if you’re used to seeing coworkers every day. Loneliness is particularly acute during the COVID-19 outbreak as everyone isolates themselves at home to flatten the curve.
Stay in touch. Take advantage of social media and services like Skype, Google Hangouts, or Zoom to stay in contact with friends and loved ones.
Stay active. Staying at home makes it hard to exercise. It’s made even worse by removing most of the walking from your daily routine. Find some bodyweight exercises you can do by yourself or find an exercise routine on YouTube you can follow.
Keep regular hours. It’s hard to keep to a routine when you’re working from home. Stick closely to the same schedule you had when you worked in the office, including setting aside time for breaks.
As we all continue to do what’s necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, remember to do your part: Stay at home as much as possible, stay 2 metres away from other people if you do go out, and listen to directives from government and health authorities.
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