Working from home during a rail strike? Better call HR

Nationwide chaos? For many, the rail strike is a blessing in disguise. While the stars align gloriously and bring us industrial action, a heatwave gives workers the chance to sweat on the garden bench, a cocktail in one hand and a laptop in the other. Employers may think they need to shirk their duties, but they’re not completely off the hook.

A law firm helpfully reminded companies that they still have a duty of care to their employees. Entitled “Do I have to work when it’s too hot?” the advice includes: “A safe environment where employees are not at risk of becoming ill from the heat.”

Hear hear. Those of us working from home this week will find ourselves in conditions dangerous to the honest British worker: 27C and not a cloud in the sky. In such a tense and feverish environment, there is nothing we can do but send our needs list to HR.

An army is only as good as its equipment. It is our duty as employees to ensure we are equipped with the tools we need to do our jobs.

When you go to the office, the basic expectation is that there will be printer paper, water, and watery coffee. When you’re WFH in a heat wave, the expectation is that your employer will continue to meet your work needs — the office sends paddling pools, air conditioners, sunscreen, an ice bucket, a tin can fridge. It’s inhumane to sit up straight outside, so we’re waiting for ergonomic loungers. With a little will, this could be the summer when we finally normalize WFL – working from the couch.

Otherwise, a chair with an angle of inclination of no more than 60 degrees is optimal. Unless you know what this looks like, it should be difficult to tell if the homeworker has just napped or is about to nap. The paddling pool is required for R&R at lunchtime.

As for IT, our little microprocessor friends help us; Now it’s time for us to take revenge and take care of her. Ask HR about a cooled case for your laptop, similar to a picnic cooler. It’ll fend off the warnings that pop up when the computer says it’s had enough of the heat, thanks, and wants to lie down inside instead. We should request a spare laptop while we’re at it, so one has a chance to get loose inside while the other sunburns us on work calls.

The council recommends “relaxing the rules on restrictive clothing such as ties”. where is the fantasy If you don’t expect someone to be in an office, they don’t need to be dressed for the office. It’s time for corporate bikinis, Hawaiian shirts, kaftans, sarongs and linen suits. The element of surprise is useful in any negotiation; What could be more surprising than showing up to your Zoom meeting in nothing but sunglasses, swim trunks and a locket and a cigar in hand? (Flip flops remain a bagable offense. You work from home rather than 10pm after rugby on Clapham High Street.)

Speaking of phone calls, no after 3 p.m. please. If someone boldly tells WFH they’re “on the other line,” no one is allowed to question what the “other” call might be, or check the times against the next Majestic’s CCTV records.

None of this is without risk, especially if the heatwave continues beyond this week. The NHS is also threatening industrial action this summer. When you get off on your Lilo, nobody will bother you. Heat stroke is not as uncomfortable for the company as it is for the individual. On the other hand, if your company wants to challenge your interpretation of your labor rights, they won’t have much luck either. The lawyers are also on strike. This is the time for the country’s homeworkers to unite. If our demands are not met, we can stay at home and dismantle tools. I wonder how long it would be before someone noticed the difference.


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