Working from home with the NWUPC Furniture framework

    By Sarah Dye, Furniture Category Manager for NWUPC
The national response to Covid-19 has triggered a significant transition to homeworking1 and this trend looks set to continue with government advice recommending that those who can effectively work from home do so over the winter months2. Even where staff are returning to the office, research suggests this is likely to be on a part-time basis3 with homeworking here to stay. If the temporary requirement to work from home morphs into a longer-term, permanent arrangement, how will employers meet their duty of care?
Safety First
Health and Safety Executive guidance outlines that employers “have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers”. The extent of these obligations may vary depending on whether working from home is temporary or permanent4, linked to the principle of what is “reasonably practicable”5. Employers will, at a minimum, want to protect employees who are at risk, and to facilitate the effective performance of roles. In a situation where incremental extensions mean that a short-term arrangement effectively becomes a long-term or permanent reality, consideration needs to be given to how health and safety responsibilities evolve.
Market Response
All NWUPC frameworks are developed with consideration to future requirements ‘future proofing’ and the NWUPC Furniture framework agreement is no exception. Awarded suppliers have quickly quickly adapted their propositions to challenge high street furniture retailers.
Agreement suppliers have introduced capsule ranges available on short lead times, redesigned products in recognition of the space restrictions in domestic environments and introduced products that are sympathetic to a home setting across a range of budgets; all whilst harnessing the expertise that has enabled them to create safe, efficient and aesthetic working environments within the HE sector and beyond over the years.
It is not just the products that have been reworked as quick service innovations mean that framework suppliers can now;
  • deliver safely and securely to individual addresses.
  • Furniture can be delivered flat pack, for ease of delivery, requiring simple, guided assembly.
  • Equally, where needed products can be delivered fully assembled with installation support available.  
All products comply with the quality and safety standards mandated within the Framework Agreement, with some products re-designed for adherence to the more stringent domestic upholstered furniture regulations.
Driving Value for Money
At a time when universities are facing financial challenges understanding how you can harness the framework agreement to drive value is key. There are two basic approaches to homeworking furniture purchase through the agreement: devolved individual purchases or central co-ordination, with a spectrum of hybrid approaches in-between delivering different benefits. 
A co-ordinated approach would deliver savings through the aggregation of requirements, which could be further enhanced through the establishment of a bespoke core list of products to be offered to relevant staff, and a commitment to an estimated volume. Given that aggregated volumes may be relatively low, anticipating what you will need and working on a planned approach with a single supplier will deliver savings not achieved through an ad hoc, reactive approach. Similarly, understanding the additional cost drivers such as assessing the necessity, on an individual basis, for home delivery versus en masse delivery to a central campus location for collection could also drive down the price.
There are a breadth of service and product offerings for home working furniture available from suppliers across the agreement. If you are interested in exploring these further, please contact or access supporting information provided by agreement suppliers which is available at HEContracts. You are required to log into HEContracts, further information can be gained from your University procurement team.
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