Looking after employees, including lone workers, in this era of flexible working

Flexible, or “flexi”, working, also known as hybrid working, presents specific challenges to employer organisations. Regardless of whether or not they have a duty of care policy in place, employers have a duty to ensure their employees are safe in their workplace, wherever they are working. That can throw up particular challenges because many employees no longer work in a fixed place, a situation that changes day by day in some cases.

Gone are the days when senior executives were the ones most likely to work flexibly. The work and duty of care landscape has changed beyond recognition, with the result that new approaches to, and tools to optimise, duty of care, are coming under the spotlight.

The Changing Working Environment

Driven in the past two years by the Covid-19 pandemic, and by the increasingly widespread use of mobile computing, the idea of what comprises a workplace has changed. Another driver, lagging those two factors, is their financial consequence: office rental costs, which can be reduced through partial office closure, in tandem in some cases with the use of lower cost satellite offices.

The main point here, of course, is the rise and rise of working from home, or WFH, since the pandemic started. Some think the pendulum has swung too much to WFH. The result is an emerging compromise that includes a mixed of home and office working, and/ or using hot-desking at work or workspaces away from the office.

The new work landscape, which includes various working-on-the-move environments – typically mixed with WFH and some time spent in an office – requires risks to employees to be assessed.

Assessing Risk

A first or early step is the risk assessment, historically the foundation for the rollout of health and safety regulations in an organisation. Assessments of this type are a useful way for management to identify patterns of risk. HR/H&S and security personnel can then step in to address ways of reducing, and better managing, risks to employees.

For employees working in different locations at different times, senior management might want to look at the most effective way to communicate  with staff when necessity requires it.  “Necessity” is typically driven by emergencies – or anticipated emergencies such as a weather storm or a terrorist incident, although both can happen with little or no warning. But necessity can include mental health emergencies unrelated to external events.   

A communication method that overcomes reluctance by staff to check their emails, SMS or other messaging app on a regular basis is ideal.  

One other point for consideration is the increasing number of employees who spend more time on their own than before the pandemic, and say they feel more isolated. Employers of lone workers should take appropriate measures to check on their wellbeing. It’s important to involve employees in any wellbeing programme before it’s fully implemented, to help ensure buy-in by the lone workers and therefore optimise the programmne’s effectiveness.

Pro & Cons For Lone Working

WFH or remotely as a lone worker can be beneficial to both employer and employee. Increased employee productivity can be one benefit to the employer – if only because the employee doesn’t spend time commuting to and from the office, and, in addition, might suffer from fewer distractions when working. An advantage for the employee is the sense of freedom, and trust from their employer, they can enjoy. Another is the flexi approach to work, especially if it’s desired by the employee. 

Other benefits for employers are (i) savings on some office costs, in some cases at least  (ii) expansion of the corporate presence in strategic locations, achieved by having more staff in any desired number of locations.

A “con” for lone workers is the sense of isolation that some will experience if only because of a lack of the direct supervision they may prefer. One-to-one or group virtual meetings can be useful in giving them direction and keeping them focused and supported.

Legal & Safety Points

The employer organisation is responsible for the health, safety and welfare not only of its employees but also of any on-site contractors, self-employed/freelance workers or volunteers; in some case, wherever they are working, not just on-site.

Although working alone on- or off-site is usually be very safe, the law does require organisations to consider, and deal with, any health and safety risk that might arise. Measures to help create a working environment that is safe (or the safest possible!) for lone workers can be different to what is expected for other staff. One difference is based around “Is the employee fit and healthy enough to work on their own, and does their workplace, whatever and wherever it is, present a risk to them?”

Systems to keep in touch with employees and be able to respond promptly to requests (or even just a hint of a request) for help are useful. On the other hand, staff and self-employed workers have responsibilities to take reasonable care of themselves – and, where relevant, others in the workplace. They also have a responsibility to co-operate with their organisation in meeting its legal obligations.

Employers’ Responsibilities Around Employee Safety

It’s a given that employers should do their best to protect the health, safety and welfare of their staff, and, to an extent, others, including freelances, who come into the corporate orbit. This means ensuring that staff and others are given protection from anything that may cause them harm – typically by controlling risks to injury or health that can arise in any place of work, the home and elsewhere included. This is where risk assessments can be so useful.

Consequently, employers must give information about risks in the workplace(s), and how staff are protected, including via training on how to deal with or reduce the risks. Likewise, employers are obligated to consult employees on health and safety issues, via line managers or health and safety representatives appointed by a trade union or elected by the workforce.

Managing Stress & Supporting Staff Mental Health

Managing work-related stress among employees involves understanding what is generally acceptable “normal” behaviour, and therefore being able to recognise abnormal behavior, preferably at an early stage.

Feeling poorly managed, overwhelmed or mistreated in the workplace can worsen negative mental health conditions, even in the best or better performing staff. Employers have a legal responsibility, within reason, to help.

Any poor contact – e.g. where lone workers and other employees can feel “disconnected”, abandoned or isolated – between management and lone workers etc can be remedied.  Solutions include management and staff agreeing on a time to keep in touch, whether by virtual one-to-one or group meetings or meeting face-to-face. Solutions can also include improving relationships with co-workers and management, if necessary.

Meetings can include updating staff with the latest company or office news, and encouraging lone workers in particular to attend social events and activities. It’s important to ensure lone workers are consulted about changes that have implications for them. Consultation could lead to training courses aimed at improving  employees’ work standards and to initiating employee safety and wellbeing programmes.

The mental health charity Mind underlines risks to not paying attention to mental health in the workplace.  “Our research confirms that a culture of fear and silence around mental health is costly to employers”, Mind points out. Its research findings include…

  • More than one in five (21%) employees admitted they called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them
  • 14% agreed they had resigned and 42% had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress had affected them
  • 30% of staff disagreed with the statement “I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed”
  • 56% of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel they have the right training or guidance

Proving the success of steps/programmes designed to help employees

Budgeting pressures don’t make it easy for HR or employee safety departments to showcase their success stories. They must also handle duty of care obligations in what can be a tightening budget. Within this context, showcasing success to senior management has a role to play.

Success stories can cover improved employee retention, lower absenteeism and overall improved wellbeing – and improvements in productivity. Successes like these might mean the current budget remains intact. However, more detail could be required to prove ROI.

HR or employee safety departments should work out at least the approximate net cost of a programme by determining how much it costs to implement, then subtracting the cost savings associated with it. The financial aspects – e.g. cost outcome analysis, cost-effective analysis or cost-benefit analysis – of health and safety programmes should be addressed. These analyses have their uses, but one may be more appropriate for showcasing than the others.

Proving cost savings can be a challenge, which is why is it’s crucial to demonstrate – quantitatively – that a programme is having a positive impact. Matching visibility built on solid foundations with financial accuracy is key.

Technology-Based Approaches

Deploying risk reduction and associated health and safety programmes can be made much easier through the use of a smartphone app, which links to a server-based dashboard managed by an appropriate department. The app enables employers to initiate, build and maintain better communications – and relations – with lone workers and other staff wherever they are nationally or internationally.

Management or team leaders can oversee communications that include mass-mailouts of messages alerting staff to actual or anticipated risk to wellbeing, including risk to life, incidents. Mailouts also can be about new health and safety guidelines, and include psychologically-supportive messages designed to optimise the mental wellbeing of all or selected staff.

Apps like this are not solely one-way, top-down. Employees can proactively use them whenever they wish to communicate to the HR/H&S or security department about risk-to-health-or-life situations they are in or expect to find themselves in. They can also use apps to communicate about high levels of stress or unhappiness they are experiencing.

Vismo’s solution for communication is Vismo Notify – Vismo Notify – Vismo.

To Conclude

To conclude – in this era of flexi working we increasingly find ourselves in, steps can be taken by management to help ensure that optimum levels of employee wellbeing are aimed for and attained. A starting point, to recap, is a risk assessment, followed by a review of the programmes and tools that can help all in an organisation – senior executives included. Yes, they too can require help.

Vismo and ISO 31030 – Travel risk management guidance for organisations.

Organisations have had no choice but to continually adapt to change over the last few years, especially when it comes to protecting their travelling employees. Pre Covid-19, organisations worried about outdated passports and weather delays. Nowadays it’s Covid passports, fewer airline staff, and potential quarantining. Yet despite continually adapting, how can organisations best serve and protect their employees in an increasingly unpredictable world?

What is ISO 31030?

Before ISO 31030’s inception, there were no universal guidelines for travel risk management. Organisations had to use their best judgment when implementing travel safety policy and procedures, creating gaps in wider efforts around people risk management.

ISO 31030 covers all aspects of corporate travel and is written so that it may be applied to a range of contexts and travel requirements. It provides guidance to those looking to create or improve their travel risk management strategy while ensuring the safety of any travelling employee.

Benefits of ISO 31030?

With borders reopening and more and more employees now travelling across the globe, organisations must provide a duty of care and consider the additional risks that come with employees being constantly on the move. By standardising travel risk management, ISO 31030 helps create and promote a culture where travel-related risk is formally acknowledged while being adequately resourced and effectively managed. Incorporating ISO 31030 standards will benefit any organisation by enhancing its reputation and credibility amongst its customer base – and also by improving worker confidence in travel-related health, safety, and security arrangements.

Vismo helps customers adhere to ISO 31030

To summarise, with expanding duty of care responsibilities and risks to business travellers on the rise, companies must find new ways to alleviate the anxieties of business travel, while keeping travelling employees safe. Vismo does this through our world-leading GPS tracking Locate & Protect App.

Whether your teams operate globally, locally or in a hybrid capacity, Vismo can help you manage and mitigate the risks your employees face each day. Around the clock and in all time-zones, Vismo currently locates and protects over 450,000 mobile staff, delivering true peace of mind and cost benefit to employers and employees alike.

Vismo provides Global Traveller, Lone Worker, Hybrid Worker and Mass Notification applications that instantly locate employees – and come with protective features such as Incident Management, Red Alert and Geo-Fencing. Furthermore, our range of devices and apps come with world-class travel risk intelligence feeds from our partnerships with Riskline and Dataminr.

For more information on Vismo, our products and services plus so much more please visit or www.vismo.com or www.vismo.com/us.

Satellite devices available at Vismo

As a result of military escalations in Ukraine and organisations sending their workers to remote corners of the globe, where mobile coverage is either patchy or non-existent, there is now a worldwide shortage of satellite phones and tracking devices. The demand is so high that Vismo strongly advises all our current and potential customers to contact us now if they need devices for current critical or urgent deployment.

All of the satellite solutions Vismo offer, such as the Garmin InReach Mini 2 and Iridium Extreme 9575, work from “Pole to Pole” giving global coverage in those areas where there is no mobile coverage or where the mobile infrastructure has been impacted by military action or natural disasters. In these situations, the only way you will be able to locate, track, and monitor the movements of your remote employees, in order to maximise communications and minimise risks they might face, is by deploying some form of satellite solution.

All Vismo supplied satellite solutions have two way messaging capabilities making communication with remote teams quick and easy. All devices are compatible with Vismo features such as Panic Alert and Geo-Fencing and send regular reports back to the Vismo Secure Portal.

Vismo is a world leader in location technology on mobile devices and is best known for its “locate & protect” smartphone app, which is currently being used by hundreds of our customers across Ukraine and its border regions to reduce risk, however our range of satellite devices is continuing to grow. For more information on our range of devices, how we can secure satellite devices and to download individual product sales sheets please click here.

Vismo announces partnership with Riskline

Vismo and Riskline today announced a key partnership together, providing clients with accurate location services tallied with high quality risk related intelligence.

Vismo offers accurate location services to help organisations better protect their employees through better understanding risks associated with their locations and monitoring any alerts that may be raised. Riskline provides high quality intelligence which is human-verified and analysed, to ensure organisations can quickly respond when an incident or event occurs. Alerts are organised into 7 different risk categories, ensuring organisations receive the most relevant risks to their employees and their location. Riskline also provide detailed data on COVID-19 at country and regional level. Using this information, organisations can more easily understand requirements for travelling, entry and local restrictions, ensuring employees are more prepared and aware of potential risks.

This new exciting partnership provides key benefits for clients to receive high-quality intelligence to better inform employees of potential risks or provide crucial information in an incident. With the use of Vismo, organisations can easily identify when an employee is near an incident, enabling employers to easily provide support to those who are in the affected areas. This ensures organisations are prepared for when an incident does occur as well as better managing risks proactively based on staff proximity to at-risk areas.

Emanuele Scansani, Director of Partnerships at Riskline, states, “We are thrilled to partner with Vismo and bring together Riskline’s human-verified destination intelligence and alerts, with Vismo’s leading location technology. Companies will have the tools they need to ensure their employees are safe wherever they are, a necessity at a time when there is an unprecedented focus on duty of care.”

Craig Swallow, Vismo CEO, comments “Our partnership with Riskline provides our clients with high-quality intelligence alongside accurate location services from Vismo. Organisations can easily understand when an incident occurs using both services and immediately provide support to employees, ensuring safety is at the forefront of planning.”

This partnership demonstrates the dedication to help organisations better protect their employees and ensure they are prepared for when an incident occurs.

About Vismo

Established in 2012 with offices in York, UK, and New Jersey, USA, Vismo provides location monitoring and safety solutions to more than 300 client organisations, helping protect more than 450,000 Vismo App users globally. Vismo uses GPS, Wi-Fi access points and cell tower ID to locate and protect individuals locally and globally through the app on smartphones, tablets, personal trackers and satellite devices.

The app is specifically designed to help all employees, who are travelling, lone working away from home or working from home.

Many FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies, NGO agencies and a growing number of SMEs and organisations in the public sector use Vismo as part of their duty of care towards their employees. For more information please visit www.vismo.com.

About Riskline

Riskline is a leading travel risk intelligence company in operation since 2007 and based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Riskline’s world-class information and analysis services are trusted by small business and Fortune 500 companies across a wide range of industries. For more information please visit www.riskline.com.

Vismo smartphone apps play a vital role in preparing employers for any eventuality.

Critical risks that impact global travelling employees can sometimes happen very quickly, for example a terrorist attack or a sudden weather warning, but sometimes critical risks can show signs of building over time, even falling in risk before suddenly reappearing. A current example is the the immediate threat of Russian invasion in Ukraine. In this scenario, Vismo and its locate & protect smartphone apps can play a vital role in making sure an employer is prepared for any eventuality. For those very rapidly developing risks, its often the geographically targeted mass notification feature that provides the greatest value for employers. Vismo mass notification feature allows users to send immediate & critical information to its employees, whether it be to a large group or to selected individuals, anywhere in the world. For those more gradual and building risks, it can be helpful to keep a constant eye on where staff are in relation to the changing risk picture as well as seeing their location trails over a given period. Using location trails on Vismo smartphone apps will help detail the employee’s known day to day travel patterns, meaning they can be warned if those routes will take them into, or close to, an at-risk location.

Another benefit to using Vismo smartphone apps in high risk areas is our geo-fence technology. The employer can add virtual geo-fences around high-risk areas or places of safety to alert the necessary teams when travellers enter or exit these zones. A company’s appropriate teams would all immediately receive notifications letting them know of the ongoing situation so they can respond accordingly. With the current crisis in Ukraine, we’ve found a number of Vismo customers have used this feature to put a geo-fence along or around country/city borders so when workers pass through a notification occurs. This saves time for teams that can then focus primarily on those in higher areas of risk.

Now, more than ever, and in critical risk situations like Ukraine, responsible employers have a desire to locate and protect their lone and travelling workers so if they are in what could be described as hostile environments, the security team and those involved are fully prepared. We highly recommend implementing Vismo locate and protect smartphone apps onto your employee’s smartphone or tablet devices before travelling. Implementing Vismo to improve worker safety can deliver efficiency gains, provide a clear ROI and help staff feel safer and more looked after. Vismo prides itself on aiding your security teams and managers in easily locating and communicating with staff when there is any type of risk and has done this so far throughout the current Ukrainian crisis. Vismo has supported hundreds of travelling employees spreading from city centres such as Kiev & Donetsk to the Ukrainian/Russian boarder and will continue to do so.

Interested to understand more about how Vismo could help you and your staff? Contact our team today for more information on everything Vismo, or for a demonstration of Vismo locate & protect apps.

Visit: http://www.vismo.com

Arrange a demonstration: https://vismo.com/arrange-demo/

Call us: +44 1904 616666 (UK and ROW) or +1 866 815 9128 (US)