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There must be a pandemic or something – I have had dozens of press releases telling me how to make the best of WFH (work from home) ranging from therapeutic/ergonomic devices like chairs to stand up desks and health advice like lighting and rest times.

Frankly, WFH – working from home is just like working from work, only you don’t have to get as dressed and walk or catch a train, bus, bike or car.

My most pertinent advice to readers is that WFH is not a two-week thing.

Most bosses do not have a crystal ball to know when the situation will return to normal. And, as the experiment continues, it may well be that WFH becomes a little more normal than a morning commute.

So, with reports of Harvey Norman and Office Works being pillaged for monitors, laptops, keyboards, mice and desks here are a few tips that may help you WFH.

The Law on WFH

I am not a lawyer, so I asked one about the legality of forcing workers to a) WFH and b) to provide their own equipment.

An employer can close an office based on Workplace Health and Safety laws. If you caught COVID-19 at work or during a commute, you could possibly sue it for negligence!

An employer can ask you to WFH due to force majeure. Presently its public liability insurance only covers its primary place of work (premises). Lobbying is underway to extend that to ‘places of work’, but in the interim, you should have your own householder’s public liability. It is usually part of home and contents insurance, but the policy may preclude a home ‘business’ so make sure you advise your insurer – a quick email is all it takes.

An employer can ask you to take paid leave or unpaid leave (if you don’t have any left). An employer can ask you to work fewer hours, and you may agree to that. That way, you preserve all entitlements (sick leave, maternity leave, etc.) and the right to resume work at the office when it is safe to do so.

On the question of termination, an employer has the right to terminate employment if it believes it cannot meet its future obligations. It then must meet award or contract provisions to pay you out. You have no residual rights and are unemployed. You can then seek other work and apply for government allowances like Newstart, Dole, rent assistance etc.

But the interesting thing about WFH is that the employer, not you, is ‘generally’ obliged to provide the tools of the trade required to allow you to do so. Tools may include the internet, a computer (desktop/laptop), software, printer and even an office class desk, chair and lighting.

Now before you go overboard to fit out a home office at someone elses expense, consider that we are all in the same boat. Keeping your employer afloat and your job active is better than the alternative.

So, work with your boss in the spirit of goodwill to all.

Things to do to lessen the financial blow

Rather than try to recreate your work environment at your cost, ask your boss if you can borrow your kit from work. This is a win-win if you collect it and return it in similar condition. If it is an extensive or valuable kit, you may need to adjust your insurance and take photographs of everything you borrow.

If you are skint and your productivity is failing due to a stream-driven PC/Mac/small screen/crappy keyboard/internet, then do not feel guilty putting the hard word on them.

Why? A typical small to medium business will get an instant tax write-off for assets whereas you can’t. That write-off means the company does not have to pay 30% company tax on the profit it would have used to buy the equipment.