As lockdown restrictions ease, more and more organisations are reopening shuttered workspaces. But many will likely change the way they operate longer-term, having used technology so successfully during lockdown. For workers who were previously office-based, working at home is likely to become a regular part of their working week. This will present them, and their employers, with a new set of challenges. In this blog, we’re going to look at the implications of long-term lone workers at home.
Long-term lone workers at home need risk assessment
Getting people to work at home during the pandemic aimed to restrict their exposure to coronavirus. Thankfully, the risks of contracting Covid-19 in an occupational setting are diminishing. Organisations have improved their health and safety protocols across working sites, with a greater emphasis on deep cleaning, social distancing and hand hygiene. But the experience of the pandemic showed many organisations that the barriers to remote working were not as high as they had previously thought. For many, this means that home working for at least part of the working week will become the norm.
Of course, it is difficult for employers to ensure health and safety outside a workplace that they have full control over. This is especially true for long-term lone workers at home. Now is the time for employers to perform more rigorous risk assessments for their home lone workers, to protect them when they are engaged in work tasks. From ensuring safe working environments, to looking after their physical health and mental wellbeing, employers must stay sharp when it comes to protecting their staff.
No compromise on occupational health
The home office environment is potentially problematic. Many workers won’t have space for a dedicated work area. Sitting at a dining room table, on a sofa, or even propped up on cushions in bed may be the best that many people can do. Employers must work to avoid long-term injuries and chronic health conditions arising from employees working in such conditions.
The HSE provides useful information about home lone worker risk assessments on its website For people working at home on a long-term basis, employers must start by looking at lone workers’ workstations. They’ll need to be rigorous about ensuring workers have good posture when they’re working with display screen equipment (DSE). Breaking up spells of DSE work and regularly changing position are essential, just as they would be for a worker using DSE in an office environment.
Employers should specialist DSE meet needs where possible. This might extend to providing laptop stands and external keyboard and mouse to ensure that workers’ posture is optimal in a home environment. And for long-term lone workers at home, employers may need to provide larger items such as ergonomic chairs or height-adjustable desks.
Worker wellbeing is part of health and safety
As for physical health considerations, long-term lone workers at home need to have proper support. While flexibility means that many home lone workers won’t work ‘standard’ office hours, it’s important for workers to feel they can have proper time off if they’re sick. This means that home lone workers must be encouraged to self-report if they are sick, and that they should take adequate time to convalesce if they have been ill. Fatigue and other post-viral conditions must be carefully monitored.
Employers also need to minimise stress and mental ill-health and recognise signs of stress early on. The HSE’s stress management standards will help employers with this aspect within risk assessments. Changes in behaviour of home lone workers are critical signs of stress. These may include mood swings, being withdrawn, a loss of motivation, commitment and confidence, or increased emotional reactions. It’s harder to pick up on visual clues over a video conference, so a positive mental health culture will help. Employers can help to alleviate problems before they arise with support such as online resources or an employee assistance programme. And a regular social catch-up online, as distinct from work-related meetings, can provide a valuable means of combatting loneliness.
Long-term lone workers at home are helped by Safe Hub
Safe Hub can make a difference to home lone workers’ wellbeing, as well as their physical health and safety. They know that they have access to 24/7 support, with a range of features including emergency Red Alert and reactive Worker Down functions. They can make the system work even harder for them on smartphones, laptops, desktops or dedicated lone worker safety devices. And with our fully managed service approach, lone workers can share devices such as SOS Fob if there’s a flexible rota of home working. Each individual lone worker can easily signal that they’re using the device, so that our Alarm Receiving Centre will know whose personal risk profile to follow at any one time.
Modern technology means that location is no longer such an important factor in being efficient at your job. The coronavirus lockdown demonstrated that technology underpins remote working for many office-based teams. And for us, our technology further supports long-term lone workers at home. With GPS on our side, we can locate lone workers in a hurry with pinpoint accuracy. Whether they’re at home, in the office, or out and about, that means that Safe Hub is at their side throughout their working day. #LoneWorkersAtHome #RiskAssessment #HealthAndSafety #LowestTotalCost #LoneWorkerSafety
Contact Lone Worker Solutions and the Safe Hub team today to find out more about supporting long-term lone workers at home
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.
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