Everyone from Tyson Fury to Prince Harry and JK Rowling to Angelina Jolie is doing their bit to tackle the stigma attached to mental health issues. Anxiety, stress, depression, panic attacks, insomnia, awareness of these issues has been heightened by influential public figures.
Mental health issues may well come with the territory when you’re in high-profile positions, yet they deserve credit for speaking out. But mental health does not discriminate in terms of class, grade, sex, ethnicity, or age and people doing everyday jobs can struggle with the daily routines.
Thanks to our progressive attitudes to mental health, if you’re based in an office, there will be a manager to keep an eye on you and someone you can turn to offload. But we should not forget the hundreds of thousands of people earning a living as lone workers, many of whom work for housing providers. Out of sight should not mean out of mind.
People in the housing industry have got enough to contend with when it comes to physical threats, assaults or verbal attacks, and the sector has an excellent track record of dealing with this.
We know from the many thousands of people we support that being a lone worker is safer than ever thanks in part to the protection services networks and processes in place. But there is also a less obvious challenge when it comes to lone working and that is work-related stress.
It stems from feeling forgotten about, feeling isolated and feeling vulnerable – wondering how you’ll cope when you’re out and about on your own.
And that’s why it was so pleasing to see the Health & Safety Executive is moving with the times and has just updated its guidance: Protecting lone workers – How to manage the risks of working alone.
It means that housing sector organisations have a duty to consider the mental health of staff who work remotely as well as their physical safety. The housing sector depends on the agility of its lone workers and long may that continue.
But they require support so they can enjoy peace of mind right around-the-clock. No one should be kept awake at night because they’re worried about what’s in store for them the next day. We know that quite often the stress comes from feeling cut off from managers and colleagues; detached from the organisation as a whole. That’s something we’re determined to address.
This is a fast-moving area which has brought tremendous change in the industry. Specialised security products, key fob style devices with built-in GPS, and connections to a dedicated 24/7 accredited team to assist in emergencies are all in place as awareness and expectations have changed. Thanks to big hitters like Tyson Fury, there’s been a step-change in terms of looking out for colleagues.
I’m proud to say we’re doing our bit on the technical side. But the onus is on managers to focus on measures to maintain staff well-being – and not lose sleep because of work duties.