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The Barriers to Keeping Frontline Employees Safe and Well

barriers to keeping frontline employees

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.

Their environment

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.

Their perception

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 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.

author-rachel-stidworthy

Rachel Stidworthy

Marketing Manager

I am a focused and highly organised communications professional with over 15 years marketing experience in the B2B sector.

Categories
Blog Employee Wellbeing

Mental health in the workplace

mental wellbeing

Mental wellbeing in the workplace: 6 steps every organisation should take

2020 was the year to forget, but for many it is a year to recover from. For our employees, never before have the lines between work and home been so blurred. We were forced to juggle home life with work all while adjusting to the fact we were in the middle of a global pandemic which altered life as we knew it. For many of us we had never experienced anything of this scale or severity in our lifetimes and this impacted our mental wellbeing.

Now more than ever, we need to do more.

A study by Oracle found that over three quarters of the population said the pandemic negatively affected their mental health. The same study discovered that 76% of employee believe their company should be doing more to protect the mental health of their workforce. These statistics alone speak volumes but when you then start to combine these facts with the estimated cost of mental health on UK businesses, the message becomes even clearer. The Centre for Mental Health found that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £35 billion a year and this figure keeps on rising. This equates to a cost of £1,300 for every employee in the UK economy.

Many organisations are already stepping up and acknowledging mental health as a big part of their engagement and wellbeing strategy but if anyone in your organisation still needs convincing; Deloitte identified that for every £1 spent by employers on mental health interventions, they get £5 back in reduced absence, presenteeism and staff turnover. When you add this hard economic fact into the mix, it is clear that employee mental ill-health has to be a top priority.

How mental wellbeing strategies should fit into your organisation

It is important to note that any mental wellbeing initiative cannot be a standalone project. It isn’t something that should just be mentioned during Mental Health Awareness Week. It needs to be deeply ingrained in the culture of the organisation. At VRAMP we firmly believe that mental wellbeing and employee engagement are inextricably linked. After all, when you strip back employee engagement, its purpose is to make someone feel they matter. That positively impacts our mental health. We would therefore always recommend that mental health initiatives are part of your employee engagement strategy so they can be weaved into your company culture.

How to better manage and support mental wellbeing at work

We have combined suggestions for some of the UK’s leading mental health charities and support organisations to create a checklist of steps an organisation should take to implement better mental health support.

Step 1: Have the right support networks in place

Mental wellbeing is complex. For you to provide effective mental healthcare it is likely that you will need support from professionals. This could be access to a workplace mental healthcare scheme, links to mental health helplines, employees trained as mental health first aiders or support creating a mental health policy. Once you have solid support provisions in place, you can take on the remaining five steps.

Step 2: Change perception

Many employees are still reluctant to declare a mental health issue for fear that their employer will regard it as a weakness or failure. Your employees need to be comfortable and confident in sharing their experiences. They need to know that good health, both mental and physical, is a company priority. The best way to achieve this is to lead from the top. If senior leaders and line managers are honest and open, the barriers will begin to lift.

Step 3: Ensure your leaders are confident

If an employee went to their line manager and informed them they were struggling with their mental wellbeing, are you confident that all your line managers would know how to respond? If not, some internal training will be necessary to run through the support you have available and how to personally provide ongoing support – from the right questions to ask to a reminder to consistently carry out 1:1s and return to work interviews. If your line managers are confident, your employees will feel better supported.

Step 4: Communicate in many different ways

The more we communicate about something the more comfortable we feel. But we are all different and we prefer to consume information, and engage, in different ways. Therefore, the more channels you use to spread the message the more aware your employees will be of your commitment to support their mental health. From the induction process, through to articles, posters, weekly tips for line managers and guest speakers at company conferences. Every time you discuss mental wellbeing, it has the potential to resonate with another person.

Step 5: Involve employees with organisational decisions

The more you involve people, the greater sense of ownership they will feel, increasing productivity and morale. This might be input on your mental wellbeing policy or opinions on how the organisation should evolve. No matter how big or small the decision, you have multiple routes available to make it happen. These include staff surveys, focus groups, performance reviews, innovation events, team briefings and feedback through internal communication tools.

Step 6: Regularly take stock

To know how to effectively support your team you need to know if there are any factors that have changed that could have a negative impact on mental health. For example, a big project with tight deadlines, a noisier work environment, an increase in lone working, or poorly managed change could all cause mental health problems. By taking into consideration all the possible triggers and ensuring you monitor and measure them, you can make the necessary changes or interventions to protect your staff.

The final word

Ultimately, for us to normalise mental health and give it the same non-stigmatised understanding that physical health has, we need to communicate and engage. And when we spend around 50 years of our lives at work, the workplace has to be somewhere we are comfortable discussing our mental wellbeing.

For further guidance or support we recommend visiting:

NHS – https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/

Mind – https://www.mind.org.uk/

Mental Health Foundation – https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/

Mental Health at Work – https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/

Centre for Mental Health – https://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/

Rachel Stidworthy

Rachel Stidworthy

Marketing Manager
I have over 15 years marketing experience in the B2B sector and have always been heavily involved in internal communication and employee engagement. I firmly believe that with the right engagement strategy in place, an organisation can achieve far more.