A tsunami of potential court battles over workplace injuries sustained by remote workers could be offset by Irishwoman Criona Turley’s Capella Workspace Solutions which assesses and redesigns workspaces to be safer.

With the vast majority of former office workers now home workers due to the pandemic businesses are being forced to rethink the future of the physical workplace. According to entrepreneur Criona Turley, founder of Capella, the immediacy of the move to remote working has left huge gaps in terms of both ensuring employee welfare and wellness and limiting employer liability.

“Under law companies are just as responsible for employees working from home as they are in the office,” Turley explained. “And a lot of businesses don’t actually realise this.”

“Some employers will say they don’t have a budget for ensuring employee safety at home, but do they have a budget for being sued?”

A recent survey taken by the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway and the Western Development Commission, 83pc of 7,241 Irish respondents would like to see home working as part of their work solution going forward, 12pc would like to work remotely full-time. Interestingly, 51pc had never worked remotely before.

A stitch in time

Under the Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005, employers are equally responsible for the health and wellness of their staff working from all workplaces, including home offices.

Turley, a seasoned businesswoman and a Harvard graduate, said that the extent to which this will ben enforced by law will depend on the efforts made by the employer to engage with their employees to satisfy themselves as best they can that the risk of injury is minimised.

In plain English, post-pandemic many employers will have to shift the focus of keeping their businesses going to dealing with a raft of potential injury cases.

Turley’s start-up Capella, founded just as the pandemic sent office workers in Europe and the US home, has developed an innovative software solution called DOMUS to deliver a closed loop audit of the home work space, involving an employee safety questionnaire, recorded ergonomics and safety training, employee consent and a 3D scan of the home working environment. A more in-depth solution exists for employees with pre-existing conditions.

The company also works and partners with companies to thoughtfully rethink and redesign their offices to ensure a safe return of employees to the office.

Ultimately, Capella helps to minimise the employer’s liability and ensures a safe workplace for the employee.

“We built a whole safety portal that assesses the remote worker’s home working set-up. It takes pictures of the set-up, measures the set-up and an assessor does a risk assessment and a proper report is done. If something needs to be changed or invested in, we would advise on what to do and create a record that ultimately ensures the worker is safe and protected but also that the employer is protected from liability by proving they did everything they could to ensure the worker operated in a safe environment.”

Turley points out that potential liability claims could include everything from neck, arm and backaches to migraines and more.

“A worker who may not be properly set up to work from home because everything happened so quickly and suddenly, they are now working at home on a beanbag with their laptop and if they develop a back condition they could have a case.

“For employers, there’s no excuse for not engaging with employees and making sure they are safe. Some employers will say they don’t have a budget for ensuring employee safety at home, but do they have a budget for being sued?”

Not only is Capellla a business of its time it is an export business. Turley and Capella Workspace Solutions are listed as consultants under the IDA and Enterprise Ireland Lean Business Continuity Voucher, and she is also a member of the mentoring panel in Smurfit Business School.

“We have launched in the United States and my co-founder Victoria Yanakos who is based in Manhattan has launched the platform as a tool for employers to provide it to employees as a wellness perk as well as a productivity enhancement tool.

“We are a European business that is launching into the United States where the focus of our business will be less on liability and more on productivity and wellness. We are currently talking to some really big organisations over there and gaining traction.

“At the core of Capella is our intellectual property which can measure and assess a work environment such as ergonomics, space, wiring and other factors to improve wellness but also to help employers do the right thing for their employees’ overall wellness,” Turley said.

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 25 September, 2020

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