Individuals working remotely is considered normal business practice today. Additionally, field work, as well as in country and overseas work is completely common place.
When it comes to working alone or independently, it is predicted that by 2020 half of the UK’s workforce will work remotely. A great research paper sponsored by Buffer (https://bit.ly/2t3AL7T) based on a global survey of 1,900 remote workers, found that work satisfaction levels were extremely high due to the independence and flexibility of being able to work remotely, and workers did not feel disengaged from their colleagues or felt at a career disadvantage.
This growing working landscape means that business leaders need to adjust their management style and implement sound workplace safety practices to keep these workers not only engaged, but safe. When it comes to safety obligations, what does the law say?
According to Australian Model Work Health and Safety Regulations, “remote or isolated work, in relation to a worker, means work that is isolated from the assistance of other persons because of location, time or the nature of the work.”
This isolation can be due to the nature of the project being undertaken, time that work is to be done, or the location of the project, just to name a few reasons. Regardless of where the person is working, as a ‘Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking’, you have a responsibility to keep your worker safe.
Here is some key information and practical guidance you may like to consider when building your policy, and procedures:
Implementing a safety checklist – A checklist is a way to ensure the safety of the worker prior to undertaking remote or isolated work. By developing a checklist to be completed before the work commences, the worker can be aware of any risks they might be exposed to, and plan for them accordingly. It can also be a list that is constantly evolving, thus keeping in step with the need of the workers. Here’s an example of a safety checklist that you can adapt for your own needs.
Adequate training and education – it’s important to make sure that remote/isolated workers have adequate training and information. WorkPro’s Working Alone Safety Induction module provides necessary training and information that can help workers prepare for their tasks when working in isolation or remote places.
Communication and buddy system – For those who are working alone, it’s crucial to make sure there’s someone checking in with them throughout their shift. By establishing a line of communication, whether it be another person, or an automated system such as Alertabuddy, making sure there’s a line of communication alerts the relevant bodies to a problem should one arise. An isolated worker should have a buddy at all times, especially when it comes to irregular hours. There should also be a plan in place if the buddy is unavailable for any reason.
Another great little application we’ve come across is JESI. It’s an online journey management program that allows people to check in as safe when they have arrived at their intended location. It means that there’s always a way to make sure the remote worker is safe, because if they fail to confirm they have arrived, then an emergency alert is sent to pre-determined contacts.
As a web-based business, WorkPro has a number of remote workers. In fact, a quarter of the staff work almost 100% from home.
Reena Singh, WorkPro’s Finance Manager has just celebrated her 12-month anniversary, and has worked remotely for the last 9 months. She manages to stay in touch with what’s happening within the business through weekly visits to the office, and scheduling a one-on-one management meeting, as well as a staff catch up on the day that she attends the office.
For Reena, her role allows her to work from home, significantly reduced travel time and therefore increased productivity. Reena has completed a safety module and her home office has been inspected to ensure it meets the company’s requirements. Reena checks in at the start and end of each day by phone.
WorkPro’s two key technologists also work almost 100% from home.
One of the team lives in Perth, so Microsoft Teams helps Ron stay in touch throughout the day. He is also in daily contact with WorkPro’s CTO for a quick catch up and management also speaks with him on a fortnightly basis to provide an update and check in. Twice a year he also flies to Melbourne for a week to get immersed in the team and participate in strategic planning.
WorkPro’s CTO lives outside of the Melbourne metropolitan area and it simply doesn’t make sense for him to commute daily. Working from home allows him to work in a familiar environment, and remain focused on key projects.
Allan attends the office once a fortnight, spending time in on-on-one meetings with management, sales and customer success to provide updates, collate system feedback and continue to build our product road map. It also provides him time to socialize and keep in touch with the team.
We also host regular staff dinners to help the team remain culturally engaged.
Technology like Slack, Microsoft Teams and Skype allow people to work from home and makes it easier than ever to work from home/out on the road. If you’re looking for a central hub to organize projects, Basecamp might be able to help. This also means that you don’t have to be physically together to keep the project on track, as everyone can enter what they have been contributing. This prevents double ups, which keeps the workflow intact. It’s important to consider what’s right for your business, and make sure you’re not wasting valuable hours by making people commute each day.
WorkPro has developed an e-book based on your safety obligations when it comes to working alone, and how to manage remote and isolated workers. The resource can be downloaded for free here. Feel free to contact us on 1300 975 776 for more information on how you can protect your workers who are working remotely or on their own.