UNISON has been actively involved in bringing staff feedback to the attention of management.
In the first trial of agile working in a children’s social work team, a UNISON health and safety survey revealed significant problems with the system.
After only a number of weeks, 86% of workers using the new laptops had suffered health problems as a result including stiff necks, eyestrain, back pain, headaches and pain in arms/wrists.
As a result of this feedback and further UNISON involvement management have now taken some of it on and have made several key changes, including:
• carrying out risk assessment of agile working, which advises as agreed by UNISON that laptops should not be used on their own for more than an hour at a time;
• now giving staff a choice of two different types of laptops, 14 inch or 12 inch, instead of just the previous 12 inch which many people found too small;
• having large numbers of desks (60%) at 5 Pancras Square with external monitors and keyboards, whereas initially the plan was to have laptops only;
• having laptop risers and external keyboards available for other desks;
• giving staff a choice between using a laptop bag, a backpack and a wheelie suitcase, instead of just a laptop bag which we pointed out was too heavy for some workers and could be a target for theft.
Despite some of these issues being taken on board, we still believe there are significant failings in how agile working is being rolled out to different groups of staff. Importantly, staff are not being adequately informed of the significant health risks laptops represent, particularly in terms of causing musculoskeletal disorders. And most staff are not being informed that they should not be using them for more than an hour at a time without external equipment.
We are continuing to meet with senior management to discuss both the agile working plan, health and safety and the move to 5 Pancras Square. Amongst the other issues we are still raising with them are:
• what guidance will be provided for staff in case someone tries to rob them of their laptop?
• Who is responsible if a laptop or handheld device is lost or stolen? (Update: this is now been answered, the authority will be responsible but the cost will be recouped from local team budgets)
• Will the new building be fully suitable for staff with disabilities such as hearing and vision impairments, and those using voice-activated software?
• How will management ensure that people working from home complete their workstation self assessments?
• Will there be sufficient workstations with adjustable height desks and foot rests?
• Will there definitely be sufficient workstations?
• Will there be sufficient toilets, especially for female workers in our majority-female workforce?
If you have any questions or concerns about these issues which you would like UNISON to feed into discussions please contact the branch health and safety officer, Phil Lewis on extension 1633 or Philip.Lewis@Camden.gov.uk.
If you are been moved onto agile working and you have health or work needs which are not being met then speak to your local union rep or convenor.
For more information see the agile working section of our website at https://camdenunison.org.uk/tag/agile-working/