Duty of care for Lone Workers and those working from home

The global outbreak of COVID-19 has changed the way organisations operate, with employees quickly adapting to working from home (WFH) where necessary. WFH throws up challenges, however, even where staff seem to have settled into what is for many a new way of working. A prime challenge is meeting duty of care obligations.

Duty of care is, in general, about workers’ wellbeing and welfare and, related, compliance and good practice by the employer. All employers have a moral and a legal obligation to ensure that all their workers are fully protected from personal physical and/or emotional harm, either on or away from the employer’s premises.

Measures will already be in place to reduce and manage risks to employees in an office environment. However, with WFH, the risks increase because organisations no longer have easy and visual control over the working environment.  

Safety of workers encompasses both their physical and mental health. In terms of supporting workers with their mental health, organisations should ideally ensure they have regular contact with them in order to check their wellbeing and reduce the risk of any employee feeling isolated and perhaps suffering the consequences. Monitoring could be through scheduling regular phone calls or by video chats or other method via an app.

In cases of incidents such as a large increase of COVID-19 cases, organisations will need to quickly contact all employees WFH in the affected locality. App-based solutions can help by sending alerts, via a mass notification feature where appropriate, containing critical information to those at risk, whether they are at home, in an office, or elsewhere, including travelling between places. 

Organisations need to understand if an employee is struggling or needs some extra support. To help both manager and worker, app-based solutions allow discreet two-way dialogues, starting with the affected worker raising an issue or query with the appropriate team leader or manager. An approach like this enables the worker to feel more confident and less embarrassed or stressed about discussing problems, and seek help if necessary.

WFH brings benefits to our personal lives. Many workers experience an improved work-life balance, which can be highly influenced by less commuting stress. This can significantly increase a worker’s spare time in which they would otherwise be commuting; and saves them money. However, some can feel lonely, isolated and less motivated, even as they appreciate some aspects of it. App-based solutions can provide an way for employees to report how they feel, this can enable a conversation to start if the employee feels comfortable with this.

Ensuring workers are supported and protected is key to a happy and productive workforce. Implementing a solution that monitors employee wellbeing, sends alerts if required and has the ability to send mass notifications in case of an emergency could be vital in protecting employees and meeting duty of care obligations.