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Working from home: Advice for the self-employed

Employers have the same health and safety responsibilities for employees working at home as for any other workers, but if you’re self-employed there are other implications of working from home which you may not be aware of.

In this article we give you some guidance on the health and safety issues you need to consider when working remotely as well as information on tax relief and mortgages, leases and home insurance.

Working environment

Your workspace should be warm and well-lit with adequate ventilation and there should be sufficient space for furniture and equipment for you to work comfortably.

Be aware of potential trip hazards from cables and leads and increased noise levels, for example from printers, which may affect your concentration.

You should have enough room at your desk to change position and vary movement. Try to keep frequently used items within easy reach.

If you have to read or refer to documents frequently, consider investing in a document holder rather than having them flat on the desk. This will help reduce head and neck movements.

Ideally, your chair should have a seat back height and tilt adjustment and lumber support. You should be able to adjust the height of the chair so that you can place your feet flat on the floor when working without too much pressure from the seat on the backs of your legs.

Computer work

When working on a computer, your eye-line should be just below the top of the screen and the screen should be positioned in front of you at approximately an arm’s length away.

If you work on a laptop, consider investing in a stand so that you are not constantly looking down at the screen.

Consider how comfortable you are when typing. You should be able to rest your wrists in front of the keyboard. A wrist rest may also provide additional comfort. If you use a laptop, consider using a separate keyboard and mouse.

Your mouse should be close to you and next to your keyboard. Be aware of arm overreaching, bent wrists and tense arms. Try not leave your hand on the mouse when not in use.

You should have support for your wrist and forearm when using the mouse – either from the surface of the desk or the arm of a chair. If not, consider investing in a support device.

Break up long periods of screen work with rest breaks or changes in activity. Aim for at least a 5 minute rest break for every hour of work).

Change your focus or blink from time to time to avoid eye fatigue.

Posture

When working at your desk or computer, especially for long periods of time, it can be easy to forget about your posture.

Try to make sure:

  • your head is upright, not bent down or backwards
  • your head is facing forward most of the time
  • your trunk is held straight
  • your lower back is supported
  • you are sitting right back into your chair
  • your shoulders are relaxed
  • your arms are relaxed by your sides with your elbows below your shoulders
  • your forearms are horizontal and your wrists are in line with your forearms
  • you have space under your desk so you can move your legs
  • you use a headset if you are regularly using a phone at the same time as using the keyboard or mouse

Change your position regularly and take breaks when you get up and move or stretch.

Mortgage, lease and insurance

Many people aren’t aware that they should check their mortgage agreement, lease or home insurance to make sure there isn’t anything which would prevent them from working at home.

Mortgage providers, landlords and insurers may have exceptions in place for office-based workers who are having to work at home because of the pandemic.

Tax

You may be able to claim tax relief of up to £125 to help cover the extra cost of working from home because of the pandemic. You cannot claim this relief if you choose to work from home. You can check your eligibility and find out how to claim on the Government’s website.

Am I employed or self-employed?

Find out the main differences between employment contracts and contracts where services are provided on a self-employed basis