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Looking after workforce wellbeing

17 October 2019

SoloProtect considers mental health in the workplace and the particular issues for those who work alone.

Working life is a significant aspect of many people’s lives, we can spend more time in a working environment than anywhere else. In fact, it’s estimated that when working full-time we spend a massive one third of our time at our jobs. Therefore, doing something you enjoy, and working in the company of people you like, is great for your mental health and wellbeing.

Clearly, it’s not as easy as just getting the ideal job. We can’t all play football for a living, or earn millions travelling the globe, life for most of us is not quite as extravagant.

The chances are you probably don’t hate your job, you just don’t exactly love it. Work can be stressful, you may have to work long hours, or evenings and weekends, it could be physically or mentally draining, you may not get along with all of your colleagues or you may have a troublesome manager. We all have times when life gets on top of us and it’s hugely important that we know how to deal with our emotions during these difficult times, whether that’s in our home life or our work life.

Mental health and wellbeing are buzz terms at the moment, and for good reason. An NHS study showed that severe mental illness has been on the rise since the early 1990s, and that at any one time, a sixth of the population in England aged 16 to 64 have a mental health problem. Mental health is something everybody has, just like physical health. And much like our physical health, our mental health needs regular attention to ensure we stay healthy.

Looking after the mental health and wellbeing of your employees is just as important as looking after their physical health. A happy workforce is a productive workforce. Mental health problems at work cost UK economy £34.9bn last year according to the Centre for Mental Health.

Mental health in the workplace is a serious subject, it’s not reserved for those with pre-existing issues, it can have an impact on anyone, in any role, and in any industry. Health and safety professionals need to take it as seriously as any threat to their employee’s physical safety. It’s important to address mental health concerns for those with existing issues, for those at risk, and for the workforce as a whole.

A section of the workforce that can often be overlooked when it comes to employee welfare is those that work alone. When a member of staff is out of sight it doesn’t mean, they should be out of mind; in fact, the complete opposite is true when it comes to lone working. Lone workers are at greater risk, due to not having the usual avenues of support and being limited in their ability to defend themselves or restrain a possible assailant than they would be if they had colleagues present. As a result of this anxiety levels could be higher and mental health and wellbeing issues possibly more prevalent.

There’s no quick fix or surgical operation to cure mental health but protecting your workforce will help alleviate some pressure and ensure your employees are going to work every day feeling safe.

There are many things you should be doing in order to protect your workforce and prepare them for all eventualities. Detailed, relevant, and ever-changing health and safety policies, thorough training, consistent risk assessments and for those that work alone, a dedicated lone worker device, are great ways to reduce the chances of an incident and provide your workers with peace of mind. It will also ensure you’re doing all you can to look after your employees and meet your legal duty of care.

Everyone has the right to be safe during their working hours and as an employer you have a moral and legal duty of care to do as much as possible to keep your staff safe. Appropriately trained employees will be better equipped to manage risk and make the right decision when faced with aggressive or violent behaviour. Your workforce should be comfortable administering your lone working policies and procedures.

Whilst providing things such as lone worker solutions may feel like a significant cost to an organisation, in actual fact investing in employee health, safety and wellbeing will undoubtedly save you money moving forward. A fit and happy workforce will be more productive, and have less absences through sickness and stress. On top of this, if you don’t protect your employees and an incident occurs then a large fine from the HSE will surely reinforce the importance of investing in workforce safety.

There’s no guaranteed way to eliminate mental health issues but giving your workers the safest possible environment, and the correct tools to carry out their tasks will alleviate some of the daily stress and ensure you’re correctly looking after your employees whilst meeting your duty of care.