04 Jul Lone working in housing is on the rise
You might be surprised to hear that around 8 million people in the UK are classed as lone workers – that’s about a quarter of the entire workforce.
Lone working is particularly prevalent in the social housing sector, from caretakers to housing officers and maintenance workers, many of whom have to visit tenants in their homes. The term ‘lone working’ doesn’t just cover people who work completely alone, it also refers to remote workers or people who work with no direct supervision. It is expected to become even more widespread, as working habits continue to change, and technology continues to advance.
Lone working can be a positive thing for many people, but there’s little doubt that in some professions, it can put employees at greater risk. In a 2016 survey of frontline housing workers carried out by Inside Housing, 69% of respondents reported having been assaulted either verbally or physically in the previous year. Statistics from the British Crime Survey indicate that around 150 lone workers are physically or verbally attacked every day, sometimes with terrible consequences.
While there are no specific legal duties on employers in relation to lone working, the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act still applies as it would to any other worker. Put simply, employers have a duty of care to ensure the safety of their lone workers. The British Security Industry Association – the trade association representing the UK’s private security industry – has said the protection of lone workers should be a key consideration for every business as part of its health and safety strategy, and I completely agree.
Even if it’s not in a situation that would normally be classed as risky or dangerous, being alone at work can still feel intimidating. Most employee surveys will show that feeling safe on the job – or not, as the case may be – has a huge impact on an employee’s wellbeing. This is why lone workers need a two-pronged approach; to be provided with adequate safeguards, like a mechanism to call for help if they feel threatened, but also to be reassured by their employer that their safety is important to them.
In other words, there’s no point in making lone worker safety a box-checking exercise; it needs to be embedded in company culture. The same Inside Housing survey I mentioned earlier showed only 56% of respondents thought their employers were doing enough to keep their staff safe from assault. The last thing any employer would want is an employee to think that their well-being is being risked in order to cut corners or save money.
Pick Protection is working hard to develop a range of innovative lone worker solutions which we will be in a position to bring to market in the near future. While the inspiration behind the company may not have been work-related – my neighbour was attacked and nobody came to help – I believe that we invest so much energy in trying to feel well-protected at home and in our cars for example, that it’s only natural to want to extend that feeling of safety to work.
It’s human nature to want to feel safe, so it makes perfect sense that front line housing employees who feel not just physically secure at work, but also that their safety is important to their employers, perform better, are happier, less stressed, and more productive.