To protect lone workers properly, communication and culture change are crucial

education sector lone worker
Communication and culture change are crucial to lone worker safety

Lone and remote working are becoming ever more common options for everyday work practice. Fuelled not least by information technology, employers and workers alike are actively choosing lone working scenarios. It’s doing much to increase workplace flexibility and responsiveness towards stakeholders. But the significant challenges for organisations with lone workers are commonly underestimated by senior leadership teams and misunderstood by managers.

In this blog, we’re going to take a look at how organisations can adapt their procedures for lone workers. In particular, with the right lone worker safety solution for each and every lone worker job role, you’ll be more likely to ensure positive outcomes. As we’ll see, communication and culture change are critical factors.

Welcoming lone workers into the corporate family

Systems and processes are often designed around the majority – and around an office. For instance, office-based procedures for new starters are generally well understood. Subject to clear financial constraints, you can easily allocate and deploy desk, chair, space, landline, desktop and/or laptop without issue. For lone workers, there may be differing requirements, as you may have to work harder to ensure their workspace is fit for purpose, or that their network connection is secure and stable.

Once new workers are settled in, there are more potential problems for lone workers. Maintaining a coherent company culture can be more difficult in an organisation reliant on lone workers. So often, this is cultivated informally within an office environment (the so-called “water cooler” chats). As well as the trend towards lone working, many organisations are becoming less hierarchical in the twenty-first century. Therefore, at ground level, it’s positive relationships which are responsible for getting the job done – and again, these more difficult to develop for lone and remote workers. Ironically, this can extend to the very thing that aims to protect lone workers: communication about a lone worker safety system.

Communication and culture change with lone workers in mind

For remote and lone workers, more proactive and organised interactions and events are required to ensure company values and culture are shared and embodied equally among staff. Consider culture change, so that lone worker safety practice becomes part and parcel of everyday working. This can include:

  • Winning hearts and minds that changing the way people work is a benefit rather than a burden.

  • Alleviating fears that a lone worker safety system is a question of “Big Brother is watching”, by clearly communicating that you’re focusing less on monitoring performance and much more on checking in on welfare.

  • Using communication techniques to create a ‘virtual water cooler’ and aid inclusion of lone workers. Examples are managed ‘social media breaks’, where users are encouraged to communicate on a platform, and a weekly conference call to allow workers to check in with each other.

The value of doing this should not be underestimated or disregarded as a “warm and fuzzy” initiative. It’s key to ensuring that part of your workforce isn’t unseen and undervalued.

How to deliver high uptake of a lone worker safety system

Of course, investing in a lone worker safety system is itself another way of illustrating that lone workers are an important asset. Not only can this derive value for money, but it maximises staff welfare. But in our view, the biggest challenge for many employers with regard to their lone workers is achieving high levels of adoption for a lone worker safety system.

The key to any successful rollout of a lone worker safety system is training in how to use the system. Different people respond to different types of training, so it’s important to offer a range of training styles, whether that’s classroom training, YouTube tutorials, e-learning packages, or online and paper user guides. More generally, to support lone workers, organisations should consider offering broader elements of training such as conflict management and real-time risk assessment and awareness.

Responsiveness is vital when it comes to lone worker safety

To ensure that a lone worker safety system remains relevant, it’s also essential that it allows for iteration and innovation. Organisations should not be afraid to change technologies around if they are not optimal for your organisation on day one of rollout. Listening to users with regards to their everyday experience will be central in delivering this.

Ongoing usage monitoring and capturing user feedback are great ways of working with lone workers to determine how a system works in practice. For instance, in a high-risk team, it may be prudent to adopt one-way rather than two-way audio when contacting an alert response centre in order to remain as discreet as possible. Similarly, with wearable devices, lone workers should be able to choose from a range of options. Whether workers choose a belt clip, ID badge holder, lanyard or wrist band will depend on their role or personal preference. Until such options have been trialled, individuals might not know what suits them best.

It’s also important to ensure that alert and escalation protocols respond to an individual’s needs. For instance, this will always include information about any salient health conditions. But organisations must also respond to concerns about data protection of such sensitive personal data. Once more, a lone worker safety system should never be about Big Brother watching you. It’s about a concerned friend looking out for you – and a friend who’s backed by the emergency services if they’re needed.

#LoneWorkerSafety #VirtualWaterCooler #LoneWorkerCulture

To find out more about our communication and culture change in a lone worker safety system deployment with Safe Hub, contact one of the team today.

Post by Rob Gilbert, Chief Sales Officer, Lone Worker Solutions (LWS).

Rob's consultative and end-user-focused approach enables our clients to fully customise lone working protection for every facet of their business. He ensures that clients achieve a lasting, best-of-breed solution working in partnership with the NHS Supply Chain, and the Procurement for Housing (PfH) Framework to protect lone workers.

About Safe Hub

Safe Hub is an award-winning package of emergency, buddy, proactive, reactive, broadcast and virtual barrier protection for lone workers. Safe Hub supports lone and remote workers on the widest possible array of BS8484:2016 Gold Certified devices, including Android, Apple and Windows smartphones, BlackBerrys, standard mobiles, PCs, intrinsically safe devices, specialist personal safety devices and satellite phones.