Dave Whittle, CEO at Positive Response, discusses lone working staff in his latest blog for Infologue.com. Dave writes: “Frontline and lone working staff, particularly in the retail and service industries, are often the most vulnerable employees of any organisation. At the mercy of unpredictable customers, with little support by way of physical presence, employees can find themselves in difficult positions where they feel they have no control over the situation. The potential alone for an altercation can be enough to cause stress and anxiety which is detrimental to health and wellbeing. In these cases, reassurance is often all that is required to make the workplace a comfortable place to be. The knowledge that support is readily available and that someone is on hand to intervene in the situation is a huge comfort to vulnerable employees.
“The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) has reported that in 2014/15 around 58 per cent of victims experienced one incident of work related violence, 20 per cent experienced two incidents, and 21 per cent experienced three or more. Statistics show that abuse at work is a serious concern and, sadly, employees all too often find themselves to be repeat victims. Looking at the figures, it is quite understandable that the thought of going to work can be a real source of anxiety for some staff members.
“Additionally, those who have suffered personally from a serious incident such as assault or armed robbery, whether in work or not, will feel particularly vulnerable. While security through alarms and cameras is important, these people need to feel safe and reassured in their workplace that support is on hand. Having an alarm system and knowing you can activate it are very different things.
“Security measures such as alarm systems often trigger the police and, as a result, many retail workers refrain from activating them in case it was a mistake or misunderstanding. They worry about wasting police time. This leaves vulnerable employees in a difficult position, where alarms and cameras offer little to no comfort.
“Newer, innovative solutions can work in tandem with traditional security measures to bridge this gap and support staff. Two-way communications systems, connected to an offsite support centre with trained operators on hand, can provide real reassurance to employees. If an incident occurs, the alarm can be triggered freely with the knowledge that someone at the centre can view the situation and assess whether the police need to be informed. They can also communicate with the site and offer words of comfort to the affected staff member.
“For example a cashier was stricken with fear when a male customer entered the shop with his motorbike helmet on. The man’s intentions were completely innocent, however, the staff member had flash-backs to a previous experience of an armed robbery and triggered the Positive Response StaffSafe alarm. Because of the intervention of trained operators, the situation was defused without the police needlessly being called and, more importantly, the traumatised employee was able to calm down and take control, thanks to the reassurance given by the operator.
“Feeling unsafe and vulnerable is a key reason for employees to leave their job and it is of vital importance to retain staff, and maintain business continuity and a positive image by putting the safety of customer-facing staff at the top of the agenda”.
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