October 17, 2022

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Webinar: How to protect all staff in a world of hybrid working – Going deeper…

The recent SHP webinar on the challenges around hybrid working, unsurprisingly, threw up a host of questions from our audience. Here, the panellists from the event respond to those queries we couldn’t tackle on the day.

The SHP webinar, How to protect all staff in a world of hybrid working, ran in collaboration with our sister site IFSEC Global, and sponsored by Peoplesafe, drilled down into the shifting trends of today’s worker in a post-Covid society.

The event was extremely well attended and we received an array of fascinating questions form attendees throughout, however, our restricted time meant we were unable to respond to all of the questions that came in from the audience. We kept all of the queries on file and sent them on to our speakers (listed below) who cherry-picked some to answer and we’ve included their responses here.

One of the other effects of the pandemic (other than a shift to a hybrid working model) was a number of people leaving work because they felt unsafe. How do we acknowledge this section of the workforce who left completely?

(ND): According to the research we conducted earlier this year, people in public-facing roles left their roles due to feeling unsafe as a result of rising aggression from the public. Although the feelings towards catching Covid may have had some impact on people working in these roles, the responses and verbatim comments all pointed towards a concern for safety when dealing with the public.

This rise in aggression is well documented and one that the NHS, the BRC and the Retail Trust have all shown in their latest research. Our own stats showed that 57% of people in public-facing roles experienced aggressive behaviour every day.

Are video call ‘check-ins’ from line managers sufficient enough to warrant a significant assessment of a worker’s wellbeing? 

Naz Dossa Peoplesafe CEO

Naz Dossa, CEO at Peoplesafe

(ND): Video check-ins are very important, as they help to gauge how someone is feeling. However, there are a couple of issues with this. The first is that it is dependent on the manager and the relationship they hold with the employee. Some employees may not feel they can raise concerns directly if they don’t have an open or strong relationship with their manager. If this is the case, an alternative solution, such as an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) might be more appropriate.

There is also the issue of not being able to talk about it at home if they are in an abusive environment. In these situations, other more discreet means of raising awareness of their situation would be better and there are now new tools and technology to enable this type of wellbeing check-in.

Can the use of technology to check in on people be a stressor? The feeling of being ‘spied’ on, for example.

(ND): As with any technology or policy, it is all about how it is used and the relationship with the employee. Technology can be used centrally by people who are responsible only for safety or wellbeing and not by direct managers. It also depends on the type of technology being used.

Devices and apps that we deploy can use a check-in/check-out function that is in the hands of the user. This informs a 3rd party Alarm Receiving Centre should they not check-out after a specified time. Only in this scenario would a manager be informed. This is less about checking in on productivity and whereabouts and more about knowing they are safe and protected.

In the Suzy Lamplugh report, Driving Out Violence and Aggression, 88% of those surveyed reported unwanted behaviours on public transport. How many respondents were there and what parts of the UK did it cover?

(V): Suzy Lamplugh Trust surveyed a total of 582 UK respondents over the period of 17 days in September 2021. This pilot study was designed to provide indicative results and suggest directions for future research. You can find out more about these behaviours in our report linked above.

Are the harassment and violent behaviours evidenced in the report due to hybrid working incidents that would have taken place in ‘normal ‘ working environments, or is it just that it has now shifted to the online environment? So hybrid working isn’t the cause, it’s just the new platform for such behaviours? 

(V): Our report found that with the rise in home lone working since Covid-19 as many as 83% of workers affected by cyber abuse state that this has escalated over the period of the pandemic. Abusive and/or harmful behaviours that were already being perpetrated offline, have been exacerbated by the use of online platforms, where unhealthy dynamics are heightened. Concerningly, over half of all respondents stated they had received no support or guidance from their employer around their personal safety at work and half agreed they would like further support around lone working including training and personal safety policies. Boundaries between work and leisure time became blurred. The communication between workers is therefore less scrutinised, as it became observable in an office setting, and we estimate that with hybrid working this will still mostly be the case.

Where do you think a company’s duty of care ends with home working? Managing risks on equipment provided or business activity-related risks/accident reporting. Will this change, and do you think the HSE will provide more guidance on this changing world?

Nicole Vazquez

Nicole Vazquez from Worthwhile Training

(NV): Organisations need to assure themselves that they have processes in place to complete suitable risk assessments for work activities, wherever the workplace might be. Although more challenging when people are working from home, providing workers with an assessment template, programme, or checklist to follow is normally adequate. The assessment is the easy part, the greater difficulties are making sure that workers have the room and resources available to set up adequate workstations that address both their physical comfort and wellbeing, and that workers follow any guidance provided. A follow-up consultation after assessments have been completed, can help reinforce the importance of personal responsibility and everyday actions, identify where additional support can be offered, and potentially identify where working from home, for some, just may not work.

When assessing the implications of working from home, we need to stop thinking just about the physical implications of poor workstations (although poor posture and lack of activity could be ticking time bombs for some) and consider the implications for mental health and wellbeing. The working-from-home model can lead to blurred boundaries in terms of the physical zones between work and home as well as very fluid mental boundaries. Workers and employers both need to be educated as to the importance of managing the boundaries in a way that works for the business and the individual.

Is the person ‘ok’ working at home is one question but will they thrive in the long term is another one altogether?

What are the trainings needed for Safe Hybrid Working? 

(NV): We must remember that for some, working from home was not a choice as it was something they never planned for or thought about. Providing workers with training covering core messages around safety when lone and remote working is always beneficial and communicates your recognition of the issues and support for staff. What this training looks like totally depends on the activities being carried out and the needs of the workers. It can range from safety and security at home and out and about, right through to managing work-related stress and isolation. Communicate with your teams and you’ll find out what they need!

Should you have a working from policy and what should be in it?

(NV): If you have formal or informal WFH or hybrid working arrangements, then it would certainly be wise to set out the expectations and define the responsibilities for staff and managers in the form of a policy. The policy should then be supported by procedures or guidance documents that communicate the arrangements for remote working. For example, you may provide guidance on electrical safety, working hours, company and personal security at home, checking in with others, managing wellbeing, etc. One specific area that can create work related stress for remote workers is how their performance (and often working hours) will be monitored. Having this set out and agreed can help to allay people’s fears and create better relationships between them and managers.

You can watch a recording of the webinar here.

This Webinar is part of SHP’s Webinar Wednesday series – click here to find out more.

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Nigel Dupree
Nigel Dupree
1 year ago

Mmmm, yeah but, no but, WFH increases the predictable risk of over-exposure to stressors be they work/life pressure and demands or simply not having the self-advocacy to set “Work Exposure Limits” in compliance with ISO 45001 – 45003 without a”Right to Disconnect” as yet. No wonder employers shifting responsibility to individuals for their occupational health and safety as, so many just carrying-on regardless of self-harming presenteeism without addressing any of the work-stressors surrounding either cultural, psychosocial mental or physiological risks. Of course, that’s great for the employer as, without any records the chances of a successful occupational health or Equality… Read more »