A majority of employees in professional service sectors fear for their safety when commuting or travelling for business, a new study has revealed.
Commissioned by employee safety firm Peoplesafe, a survey shows that similar majorities of white-collar professionals worried about their personal safety when commuting (69%), working late (71%) or travelling for business (75%).
Professional service workers such as architects, accountants and engineers account for 21.4% of the UK workforce.
Around one in four (23%) of this constituency who sometimes work overtime cited feeling unsafe when travelling home after working late as a major concern. The same proportion were worried about being alone in the office at night.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, women were twice as likely as men to be concerned for their safety when travelling home after working late.
A culture of working overtime to meet tight deadlines in white-collar professions was exposed by the survey, with 78% of respondents saying they work late at least occasionally and 30% doing so at least once a week.
However, 50% of female respondents avoided working late due to personal safety fears despite the potentially adverse implications for their income and career. The proportion for men was lower – but still significant – at 42%.
The gender divide was starker in regards to the absence of a check-in system at workplaces – something that would worry 39% of women but only 20% of men.
“These latest stats demonstrate that the safety threat to professional services workers continues to be underestimated,” said Suky Bhaker, CEO at personal safety charity Suzy Lamplugh Trust. “Employees, for whom antisocial hours and frequent travel are part of the job description, should not have to work in fear for their safety.
“Thirty-seven years after the disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh on, what was for her, just an ordinary day at work, we continue to campaign for a society in which people are safer – and feel safer – from violence and aggression.”
The findings suggested that personal safety fears can have adverse impacts on business’ productivity and talent retention.
For instance, 24% of respondents said they would consider leaving a role because of personal safety concerns.
And one in four who had experienced incidents in the previous year that made them fear for their safety said their productivity and wellbeing had been harmed.
Some 44% of respondents reported such incidents, and one in four flagged incidents that involved violent or threatening behaviour.
Such incidents were sufficiently distressing to result in 14% of those involved taking time off work and 20% suffering with anxiety.
Seven out of 10 of those polled said they would use a personal safety app if offered access to one.
‘Shift the dial’
Peoplesafe, which surveyed more than 1,000 professional services workers, provides devices and apps through which employees can raise the alarm when concerned about their safety. The alarms are handled by a 24-hour Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC).
“Professional service companies are failing their people and the stats strongly suggest they will pay a high price in productivity and lost talent if they don’t wake up and turn their attention to employee safety,” said Peoplesafe CEO Naz Dossa.
“We need to shift the dial on the importance of employee personal safety by supporting businesses to act in the best way possible, and by giving employees greater peace of mind through recognised standards.”
Access the full findings from Peoplesafe’s research here.