Setting up working from home

Tempted by a better work-life balance? Working from home – as millions of people have been doing during the pandemic – could be the answer. To get you off to a flying start, we explain the tax implications, the insurance you might need and the best ways to make your home-office experience as positive and productive as possible.

Tempted by a better work-life balance? Working from home – as millions of people have been doing during the pandemic – could be the answer. To get you off to a flying start, we explain the tax implications, the insurance you might need and the best ways to make your home-office experience as positive and productive as possible.

Chris King
From the Home team
6
minute read
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Posted 05 AUGUST 2021

Should I work from home?

If you’re considering working from home, you’ll need to think about:

  • The industry you work in and the role you do
  • Your employment status – for example, self-employed or employee
  • The policies of your employer/manager, if applicable
  • Your own preferences, unless working from home is a company policy and you must do it.

Working from home can bring considerable benefits, including:

  • Increased job satisfaction
  • More independence
  • No commute, saving time and money
  • Increased productivity thanks to less distractions
  • A healthier work-life balance.

And, according to the UK’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), employers should:

  • be open to conversations around flexible working arrangements
  • consider carefully which jobs can be done flexibly without making assumptions
  • look for the win-win – a solution that works for them and you.

However, there are some downsides to home working too.

  • Remote communication can be more challenging
  • You may need more self-motivation, discipline and focus or you might not work as fast
  • You or members of your team might feel isolated, abandoned or ‘out of the loop’
  • It may affect your career progression
  • The line between work and home can become blurred, meaning that you never fully switch off out of normal working hours.

However, the secret to making your working experience both productive and positive may lie in adopting a more flexible working style, known as hybrid working.

What is hybrid working?

Hybrid working allows you to divide your working hours between your home (or other remote locations like cafés or co-working spaces) and the office. You can build good working relationships, but also enjoy your own space to focus on getting the job done.

What are my employer’s responsibilities?

By law, your employer is responsible for the health and safety of all their employees, even when they’re out of the office.

If you’re working from home long term rather than temporarily, they’ll need to carry out a risk assessment of your workplace – and provide any equipment you need. This might mean buying you new kit or lending you some but, either way, they’re responsible for making sure you can work at home in a safe and healthy way.

A large part of this involves your workstation set-up – your desk, chair and monitor. There are rules that apply to this, known as the Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations, which your employer needs to follow to keep your work as risk-free as possible. You can read more about these on the government’s Health and Safety Executive website.

There’s also a lot you can do to stay healthy.

Make sure you have a desk and chair set-up that supports good posture, and suitable lighting to reduce headaches and eyestrain. Natural light can positively impact your mood and wellbeing so, if you can, choose a spot for your home workspace that has some.

The NHS has created a helpful guide to make sure you’re ticking the right boxes when it comes to getting your posture right.

What are the tax implications of working from home?

If working from home is a must-do rather than a personal choice, as an employee you may be able to claim tax relief on your household expenses.

These include:

  • gas and electricity
  • water
  • business phone calls.

You can’t claim for the whole bill, just the work-related part, and the tax relief you get is based on your tax bracket. For example, if you pay the basic 20% tax and claim tax relief on £10 per week, you’ll get £2 back (20% of £10).

For anyone setting up as a home worker, this is also a great time to check whether you can save money on your energy bills by switching to a different provider.

You may also be able to claim tax relief on any equipment you buy that makes working from home possible, up to the full value of the item in question. This could be a computer, desk or office chair.

However, this only applies if:

  • You can’t do your job without this equipment
  • It’s not for personal use
  • You bought the item specifically for work and didn’t already own it.

If your employer gave you money to buy the equipment, you can only claim tax relief on whatever you spend above and beyond that amount.

Visit gov.uk to find out if you’re eligible to make a claim. If you are, make sure you always keep a record of your expenses, along with any invoices or receipts.

What broadband speed will I need to work from home?

It depends on what you’re doing, how quickly you want to do it and how many other people in your home are online at the same time.

If you’re using video meeting software like Zoom, you’re looking at recommended upload speeds of up to 3.8 Mbps for HD-quality, one-to-one video calls. Casual internet browsing with email requires less bandwidth than streaming.

For one to two people working from home, download speeds of 10-25 Mbps are recommended.

If you’ve noticed that your broadband connection has started to struggle or isn’t as fast as it should be, you may want to review your broadband package, upgrade it or, if your contract is coming to an end, switch broadband provider.

Am I insured by my employer for home working?

Employers’ liability cover is a legal requirement for businesses with one or more employees, and this covers staff working remotely if they do so regularly.

If you’re running a business yourself, read our guide to insurance if you work from home to make sure you have the right cover for you and your team.

Does my contents insurance cover work equipment?

Typically, contents insurance only covers items deemed to be your legal responsibility. In other words, items that you own. Equipment on loan from your employer might be outside the terms of your policy.

If the company you work for owns your equipment, they’ll be liable for any damage. They’ll have to check with their insurance provider that the equipment in your home is covered.

If you’re a contractor, you’re likely to own the laptop you use for work. In this case, you need to check that your home insurance covers items used for business and that the value of your equipment falls under the amount your policy will pay out for a single item, particularly if it’s in the high-risk category. If it isn’t covered, you may need to increase your single-item limit.

You should also make sure that your equipment will still be protected if you need to take it outside the home.

Do I need to tell my home insurance provider if I’m working from home?

Yes, usually you need to, although the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has said it doesn’t anticipate that insurance claims will be rejected due to a change in someone’s circumstances forced on them by social distancing measures.

However, under normal circumstances, if you don’t tell your insurance provider you’re working from home, it could invalidate your policy.

You may also find that your premiums change depending on the equipment you use and whether you have visitors to your property. Working from home could even have a positive effect on your premium, as your home won’t often be unoccupied.

There are three different classifications of home working and you’ll need to make sure your home insurance policy covers the right one.

  • Clerical business use – for example, office work, admin or accounts on a laptop.
  • Business use with visitors – which is seen by many insurance providers as making your home and contents a higher risk. In this case, you may also want to think about public liability insurance.
  • Other business use – when you keep business stock or product samples at your house, which may be seen as an increased fire, theft or liability risk.

How do I make the most of working from home

It helps if you treat it like working from your office. It’s best to get properly dressed, keep regular hours, allow yourself breaks and exercise outside.

Read the NHS’ 7 simple tips to tackle working from home to help you enjoy the perks of working from home and avoid the pitfalls.

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