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Protecting Home Workers – What Are The Options?

As the government begin to roll out their exit plan from Lockdown, businesses are looking at better ways in which to manage their workforce from both a safety and productivity point of view. The HSE officially class home workers as ‘lone workers’ and the rise in home working is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

According to a survey of just under 1,000 companies by the Institute of Directors (IoD), 74% plan to maintain the increase in home working with 44% of companies suggesting that home working was proving to be more effective for their business.

“Remote working has been one of the most tangible impacts of coronavirus on the economy. For many, it could be here to stay,” said Roger Barker, director of policy at the IoD. “Working from home doesn’t work for everyone, and directors must be alive to the downsides. Managing teams remotely can prove far from straightforward, and directors must make sure they are going out of their way to support employees’ mental wellbeing.”

At the start of the pandemic, many companies saw home working as a temporary situation and expected office life to return to normal quite quickly. However, as time has gone by, businesses are realising that home working may now become either a long-term or permanent situation. For this reason, many businesses are now reassessing their lone worker policy to cater for the long term.

Although some companies simply don’t have any measures in place to ensure the well-being of their lone working workforce, it is reassuring that most companies have at least some procedure in place to help with lone working and mental wellbeing. Within this blog, we will be looking at some of the pros and cons of various processes that are currently being used, and also examining some of the more modern possibilities to give employers a better overview of their options.

Buddy Systems

A Buddy System is a simple concept where colleagues check in on one another. This involves creating a formal arrangement for staff to be paired into ‘buddies’ and are assigned the responsibility to look out for the safety of each other.

Benefits

  • Helps create comradery within the team
  • Reduces the time costs of supervisory or management staff
  • Very easy to implement

Limitations

  • Buddies could be busy, sick or on holiday
  • Completely reliant on the efficiency of your teammate
  • Could limit productivity, depending on the frequency of ‘check-ins’

White Boards

Some businesses still use whiteboards to manage and monitor their teams and are sometimes used as a method to monitor staff whereabouts, especially those working alone. Team members are usually logged on the board at the start and end of a shift as a reminder for supervisors to see who is accounted for in the office or at home.

Benefits

  • Simple and easy to implement
  • Visible to the entire office
  • Low cost

Limitations

  • Whiteboards do not allow for the continual monitoring of staff
  • Can be difficult to keep statuses up to date
  • With only start and end shift logging, staff usually receive no contact during the day

    Manual Check-in

    Some organisations rely on their lone workers to manually call or text into an office to carry out their welfare checks. This system is used quite heavily within organisations with larger teams as it can often be difficult for supervisors to contact all individuals separately.

    Benefits

    • Low physical cost and can be implemented quickly
    • Users will usually have access to personal phones in which to make calls

    Limitations

    • Reliant on lone workers to remember to check-in and also the recipient to keep a record of the check
    • No way of raising an alert if personal safety is at risk
    • Heavy on administration, as there is a considerable time and effort involved in noting the status of all employees

        Video Calls

        Video calling is certainly on the rise, and many companies approach the wellbeing of home workers through a variety of video conferencing Apps which are freely available. The frequency of video calls will vary across different companies, but weekly calls tend to be the minimum for most teams.

        Benefits

        • Offers a good level of interaction and can minimise the feeling of isolation
        • Low cost and easy to implement
        • A visual meeting is a good way to see your teammates

        Limitations

        • Can be very time consuming and unproductive
        • Does not address the physical safety of employees
        • Highly dependent on internet capabilities within the home as video uses considerable bandwidth
        • Home workers can often go days between meetings

              Red Alert Services

              Our RedAlert service has been adopted by many companies in a wide variety of sectors where employees regularly work alone or in high-risk situations, for example security guards, NHS workers, parking inspectors etc. However, since the pandemic and the rise of home working, responsible companies are also looking for more efficient ways to protect their teams at home.

              The most common type of service for home workers is mobile integration via an App, as most employees have access to smartphone technology. The Red Alert App comes with a wide range of benefits for small or large teams.

              • 24/7/365 Red Alert access to our Alarm Receiving Centre team in case of emergencies
              • Amber alert welfare checks are a good way to ensure the safety of colleagues and compliance with the company lone worker policy. Users can activate an Amber Alert via their smartphone app and leave an audio message with specific details of their task, this could be an address, landmark or specific location details
              • ‘Stay With Me’ is a feature that allows your team member direct communication with our ARC team if they feel that there may be a safety issue i.e walking across a dark car park alone
              • Broadcast messaging can send a message to all users within the team and can be used to advise on work related notifications, general check-ins or even safety issues within the area
              • The App has a non-movement sensor and can alert our ARC team If someone with a medical condition has not moved for a concerning period of time
              • A management portal is available to report on compliance, which also gives visibility of all lone workers within the team and access to all information
              • The RedAlert App is the most cost-effective solution available as it does not require a separate device

              This type of service gives supervisors a complete overview of their team and access to instant reports through our Customer Portal, saving a significant amount of time spent on administrative work. The App not only provides a range of safety features for the employee, it can also be used as a check-in messaging service to keep regular communication between teams and help minimise the feeling of isolation.

              We would always recommend that employees and supervisors communicate as much as practically possible to help with mental wellbeing, as home working can be a very lonely situation for many. If you’re currently adopting one of the more basic processes for managing home workers, it may be worth considering whether this is still providing your team with the support that they need, particularly if home working is expected to continue over the longer term.

              Many companies that we have spoken to were simply not aware that this type of service exists for home working teams, so we hope that you find this information useful. We have a range of options available for all lone working needs, so if you would like to discuss our RedAlert service further, we will be happy to help.

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