Mental Health Risks for Lone Workers
Australian companies are responsible for the health and safety of their employees. Did you know that includes mental health? The mental health risks for lone workers are very similar to office-based workers. However, they manifest and are triggered in different ways.
Monitoring a lone worker’s mental health looks a little different as well. Communication is often less frequent or face to face. New technologies can help you check-in and stay aware of their mental well-being. All in all, mitigating against mental health risks makes for a better work experience and reduces health and safety claims against your organization.
Pre-Existing Mental Health
Thankfully, mental health is becoming a greater focus area for the government and employers. More people than you might guess are affected by mental illness. Many people find themselves at one time or another facing depression, anxiety, or some other mental illness. In fact, about 20% of Australians will experience mental illness in a given year.
Statistically speaking, chances are some of your lone workers struggle with a mental illness. It may not have developed on the job but could affect their work and safety. It’s helpful to meet with every lone worker and a Health Safety Representative (HSR) to learn more details about their mental state. Understand what situations could trigger difficulties and add unnecessary stresses.
One of the most common sources of mental distress for any worker is their workplace conditions. What do those look like for remote workers? For one, lone workers face more variability day today. The chance of them interacting with someone verbally aggressive or threatening goes up. x
An important part of the workplace is a worker's relationship with their manager. A good relationship can have a positive impact on their mental health, while a bad relationship can make work even harder and lead to risks. For lone workers, this is especially important since there is less face-to-face interaction. If a lone worker doesn’t feel comfortable flagging issues or safety risks, it leaves you blind to the potential hazards they face.
There’s also a set of risks related to sensory fatigue. It’s helpful to think of sensory fatigue as factors that overwhelm or wear-down an employee. Some sensory hazards include loud working conditions or working in overcrowded spaces. Take care to protect and help lone workers in these conditions.
Physical Hazards Leading to Mental Stress
Many mental health risks stem from something physical. For example, heat exhaustion is a big risk to lone workers in Australia. Not only is it physically harmful, but it can impair judgment and affect mental health. There are other physical aspects to work that can trigger mental risks.
Shift work or long hours can impede mental wellness. So can repetitive work, night shifts, long driving, or even low-demand jobs. Allow workers to take breaks, get adequate sleep, and have access to lots of water. Another way to mitigate risk is to implement a zero alcohol policy in the workplace.
Monitoring Lone Worker Mental Health
Regardless of the risk, a key to the mental health and safety of your lone workers is monitoring their work. You can do this with a lone worker app. Since a lone worker is usually carrying a phone, it’s a convenient, easily-implemented technology to communicate.
For employees, it gives them a way to send alerts during a threatening situation or when they feel their mental safety is at risk. Employers can get a live visual through the phone’s camera or a wearable watch on the employee. Employers also have the ability to schedule check-ins to regularly hear from their employees.