We've updated this blog to reflect the UK government's announcement on the evening of 16 March 2020.
It’s the over-riding current health and safety issue: how to delay the spread of coronavirus and limit the effects of Covid-19. In our last blog, we took stock of the safety of lone workers at home, whether or not they usually work alone. Safe Hub provides employers with a useful system to protect lone workers, providing everything from emergency help to clear messaging. In this blog, we’re focusing more on the other strand of health and safety. Employers need to look after their lone worker’s health and wellbeing in the broadest context, and we’re here to help.
The latest picture of Covid-19
Every day the picture changes when it comes to Covid-19 containment. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced last week that Covid-19 is now classed as a global pandemic, and now encourages countries to 'test, test, test'. Many countries have rapidly stepped up their response to delay the spread of coronavirus by imposing lockdowns. Here in the UK, the government last night stepped up its response, telling people to restrict 'non-essential' contact and avoid places like pubs and theatres. This includes stating that people should work at home where possible. As of 15 March, there were 1,543 confirmed cases of the disease in the UK, which has tragically led to 55 deaths. These numbers have rapidly risen in recent days. And indeed, globally, the total number of deaths from the disease outside China has now surpassed the number within mainland China.
Healthy body, healthy mind
For workers used to working in a busy environment, whether that’s an office or face-to-face with clients in external settings, the change to working in isolation might be a tough one. Especially for lone workers at home without any symptoms of Covid-19, it’s important to look after their physical health. If they are literally confined to their house, employers can always encourage them to do some physical exercise. Everything from online yoga tutorials to running up and down the stairs can help keep the blood pumping and the brain active.
It’s also important for lone workers at home to look to self-care. This means accepting when they are ill, and clearly communicating that to their employer. Moreover, in the current climate, recognising the symptoms of Covid-19, and getting tested if necessary, is vital. In this regard in the UK, the NHS webpages on coronavirus will be an invaluable resource for lone workers and employers alike.
Employers should also make sure all their lone workers know about the NHS 111 coronavirus service. And with the changes announced to statutory sick pay in last week’s UK budget, lone workers should take some comfort that their incomes are protected, even when they’re ill.
Working alone doesn’t mean being lonely
Beyond their physical health, lone worker wellbeing needs to focus on the mental health aspects of working alone. Lone workers face a higher risk of experiencing loneliness by the very nature of their work. However, it’s essential to make the distinction between being alone and feeling lonely. Loneliness is an entirely different feeling from the autonomy and freedom of working alone. Workers can feel isolated and unhappy because they lack the right amount of positive social interactions.
It can be a delicate topic bringing up an employee’s health and wellbeing. One way of addressing loneliness in lone working is to encourage employees to talk about it themselves. Longer-term, employers can invest in training programmes for managers, helping them to recognise signs of loneliness, which can, if unchecked, develop into mental health issues. Schemes such as ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ aim to encourage employers to have a trained ‘mental first aider’ in every workplace.
In the short term, with more home working related to Covid-19 precautions, employers can help by changing how we talk about loneliness. We don’t have to ‘admit’ to ‘suffering’ from loneliness, which are both common ways to describe it. Normalising the language around loneliness in the workplace is a big step towards losing the stigma. Employers should make sure their HR team can actively signpost employees to helpful and relevant resources. And with Group Alert on the Safe Hub smartphone app, employers can get these messages out easily to lone workers at home.
Social lives, as well as social media
Technology is a lifeline for many lone workers, especially when it comes to safeguarding them at work. In such a tech-driven world, how do employers start addressing loneliness in lone working? Groups on Facebook or WhatsApp can be a great way for people who are physically isolated to stay in touch. At no time will this be more evident than in the current climate when workers are unused to lone working at home. However, as vital as protecting workers is, so is having face-to-face contact. Ideally, and longer term, interacting through social media and technology alone shouldn’t become the norm.
Many people have complicated lives outside work, especially given the backdrop of precautions against the spread of Covid-19. Therefore, it’s vital they feel supported in their workplace. It is also important to recognise that loneliness can start outside the job, as well as because of working at home. Do lone workers feel as though they have someone to talk to? Employers can start addressing loneliness in lone working by making employees feel genuinely part of a team.
Safe Hub special offer to support lone worker health and wellbeing
We have a special offer for existing customers who are supporting more lone workers at home due to coronavirus containment and Covid-19 precautions. We’re offering a low-cost, zero-contract upgrade for the Safe Hub App to cover all new home workers. Lone workers at home using the smartphone version of the app will have access to all Safe Hub’s safety features. We’re here to help employers support lone worker health and wellbeing, especially for workers not used to working at home.
To find out more about our Safe Hub special offer, and how we can help employers to support lone worker health and wellbeing, contact Lone Worker Solutions and the Safe Hub team today.
Post by Rob Gilbert
Rob is Chief Sales Officer at Lone Worker Solutions (LWS). He is responsible for introducing new clients to the benefits of Safe Hub, and ensuring their experience is straightforward, simple and truly effective. His consultative, customer-focused approach means our clients have full access to every possible resource to achieve lasting, best-of-breed solutions and service excellence.