The Barriers to Keeping Frontline Employees Safe and Well
Every organisation will say that the health and safety of their frontline employees is of utmost importance. But despite this awareness and eagerness, keeping everyone safe and well is extremely difficult. The statistics speak for themselves: in 2019/20 693,000 people sustained an injury at work, whilst an additional 828,000 suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety. We are also currently experiencing a decline in the mental health of the UK workforce as evidenced by a 2020 CIPD survey which found that just 35% of respondents believed work had a positive impact on their mental health, compared to 43% in 2018.
This decline in mental wellbeing combined with the knowledge that physical and mental illness results in a loss of 38.8 million working days per annum, highlights the need for UK organisations to up their game. In this blog we address the challenges and identify how you can improve the mental and physical health of deskless employees.
The barriers to frontline employee safety and wellbeing
When you read the stats above and then add COVID to the mix, the challenge of reducing injury and improving mental health is big enough as it is. But combine this with the complication of how to effectively reach your employees that ‘work on the tools’ and the scale of the challenge is amplified. Ultimately, there are two factors that complicate matters.
By the very nature of their job, your frontline employees are more difficult to keep safe. For starters, their job roles often mean they are at greater risk of injury, but they are also harder to communicate with. They often work at different locations or on varied shift patterns. They simply don’t have the same consistent access to the information their desk-based counterparts have.
In fact, many frontline workers are still reliant on their line manager to pass on a message. This reliance on receiving information secondhand presents many problems:
- Line managers will rate messages at different levels of importance and convey these accordingly.
- Those responsible for distributing the message have no idea whether the message was received or if it was portrayed effectively.
- The staggered method of distributing comms makes it nigh on impossible to communicate anything urgently.
- Employees have a very limited opportunity to provide feedback.
Ultimately, any dependency on third party communications is unreliable. There are too many steps involved in the process and too many variables that will impact the speed, effectiveness and responsiveness of each communication.
While the environment is an obvious blocker to communicating and keeping remote workers safe, there is a more problematic, silent barrier. Perception.
How frontline employees perceive the company they work for, their manager and the senior leadership has a big impact on how they work. Many of the decisions and actions that an employee takes will be influenced by their own motivations and drivers. If they are not engaged, the risk of them not reading the latest health and safety notice, or taking potentially dangerous shortcuts, or not mentioning their increasing anxiety, is increased.
But many organisations also suffer from a two-way perception challenge. Remote workers are often seen as just that, ‘remote’. They are labelled as outsiders. They are unseen employees whose needs and voices often come lower down in the pecking order than their office-based team members. It’s often a historical pattern that is engrained into the organisation. How many times have you heard things like; “we’ve always communicated that way” or “but the operatives just don’t care about that stuff”. These are all perceptions that need to be addressed and without addressing them, organisations will be left with a ‘them and us’ culture.
Ultimately, any perception, whether misconstrued or accurate, will be a blocker. If those on the frontline perceive themselves, or believe someone else perceives them, to be less valued than their colleagues they will lack pride, confidence and satisfaction. They will feel as though they don’t have a voice and the company culture, and profits, will take a hit.
Using employee engagement to improve health & safety
What the two barriers above highlight is that unless your remote employees are engaged, your health, safety and wellbeing policy will not be effective.
As a provider of employee engagement software, we have worked with our clients to strengthen their employee engagement strategies so they can communicate health & safety strategies that resonate and take effect. Take a look at our 7 employee engagement techniques for a deskless workforce and 5 steps to better engage your hard to reach employees to discover how you can put the right foundations in place to break through the barriers.
Or contact us to see the difference an employee communication app could make to your deskless workforce.
With a desire to grow personally and a wish to improve working lives through employee engagement, I am thrilled to be part of building an internal comms system that connects everyone.