As of 2018, it is estimated that 20% of the total workforce are lone workers. When considering those who work alone for some of their working days, this figure is likely to be considerably higher. Due to the nature of their positions, lone workers are often exposed to isolated working environments which can potentially have a huge toll on their mental health and overall well being. Whilst people working in larger teams have more access to support networks and camaraderie, lone workers will spend long periods of time without any social interaction and this perpetuates a sense of loneliness and isolation.
According to research commissioned by EE and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, 49% of people admitted they’ve felt uncomfortable whilst working alone but despite this, they also felt unable to act or seek help. Unlike employees who work within a collaborative environment, lone workers are considerably more vulnerable to external threats and this coupled with a lack of community or support can contribute to workers feeling down and depressed.
Companies have a huge responsibility to ensure that their employees’ safety and welfare is being considered, however, mental well being is often overlooked. According to an article in HR Magazine, working alone is often a contributing factor to poor mental health. Of the 1,200 workers surveyed, 42% said their job played a significant role in their poor mental health and a further 17.8% said that working alone was negatively affecting their mood. With these staggering figures, employers need to take drastic measures to ensure their workforce has the required support.
Ways to manage lone worker isolation and loneliness
Access to relevant support and advice
It’s important that support is readily available for workers if they need it and that they know how and where to access it. Implementing a worker helpline or an email address they can contact if they have any worries or concerns is a good and discreet way for them to communicate any issues to management.
Creating a community
Often lone workers feel as if they have no working community, so developing a social media group on Facebook or an employee website is a great way to keep off-site staff connected to the company. Scheduling regular meetings or activities for employees to bring them together and help them build relationships with individuals they wouldn’t see in their day-to-day.
Regular communication with the workforce is vital in order to establish a relationship. Whether this be in person, by phone or text, just checking to see how the workers are from time to time can help them to feel appreciated and included. Alongside this, communicating any changes happening in the company and keeping workers up to date and involved can help dispel any feelings of loneliness amongst off-site employees and ensure they feel a part of the wider organisation.
Keeping staff motivated in their job role is another way to lift morale when individuals are working alone. Setting targets, implementing incentives and acknowledging achievements maintains the work structure even if employees are working off-site.
Although in some industries lone working cannot be completely avoided, employers can take steps to make sure their workers feel safe and comfortable in their working environment. StaySafe lone worker app helps to ensure employees are safe and at ease whilst working, employees can activate panic alarms if they feel endangered and GPS tracking provides employers with an accurate location.
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