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Lone working and wellness

Lone workers make up a large proportion of the UK workforce, so it’s important for us to understand how lone working affects wellbeing and health. Here, we look at some of the challenges faced by lone workers – particularly reception staff – and the steps we take to protect ourselves and our staff.

Am I a lone worker?
The HSE defines lone workers as ‘those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision’, which applies to a large proportion – around 20% – of the UK workforce. That’s a huge number of us carrying out tasks unsupervised, sometimes in remote locations or using hazardous materials.

Lone working encompasses a huge variety of roles including everyone from nurses to haulage drivers. It also includes many roles where tasks are completed outside of normal working hours – like cleaners, security guards and reception staff.

What are the challenges faced by lone workers?
Working alone leaves employees at higher risk from various factors, including:

  • Stress and mental health issues due to a lack of company
  • Accidents and emergencies with no-one around to request help
  • Physical violence from members of the public
  • Sudden illness or injury with no access to first aid

In a nutshell, lone workers face the same hazards at work as anyone else, but the risk of serious harm is higher simply because there’s nobody else around to help. That’s why it’s so important for all employers – regardless of the industry – to provide the necessary lone work training and support.

How can we support wellness for lone workers?
The responsibility falls to employees first and foremost to ensure lone workers are properly protected. The HSE has some helpful guidelines on what that looks like in practice – including specific Stress Management Standards for wellness and mental health.

Being separated from colleagues and managers can make it more difficult for lone workers to get proper support, so it’s important to recognise the signs of stress and put open channels of communication in place. Likewise, from a physical health point of view it’s vital to put policies and procedures in place to avoid lone workers coming to physical harm.

How does RUK support lone workers?
At RUK we have robust lone worker policies in place, and lone worker training forms an integral part of our induction process.

As an employee it’s also really important to take care of your own health and safety, as well as those who might be impacted by your actions. By working together to protect lone workers, we can ensure everyone goes home safely at the end of their working day.