On a recent course towards the end of 2014, a candidate on an IOSH Managing Safely Course brought to attention a Hidden Hazard with lone working.
Now, what I want you to do is first clear your thoughts. If you do not, this will not make an impact, as at first, even I shrugged the idea off. Many people in this day and age work from home; graphic designers, web developers, wedding planners, even social workers. If you work from home or on the road you spend most of your time alone. Making you/them Lone Workers.
Many assessments of lone workers do (and rightly so) take into consideration health issues of the lone worker, first aid requirements and even contact arrangements. However how many of the assessments made of lone workers take into consideration the state of mind of the Lone Worker?
Like some of the types of lone workers I have mentioned previously, lone workers can be alone for long periods of time, often without contact with other people. Depression can quite easily set in. I did laugh when someone brought up “depression” as a risk for lone workers, however after reflection I can understand the issue. Often I can easily get a bit despondent when being alone. (It often results in a family member being talked at for long periods of time after I have spent time lone working).
So depression, during lone working, how can we deal with it? Well it certainly depends on the circumstances & resources of the situation, however, a really simple way of maintaining sanity during lone working is to use face time facilities. Web Cams/Conference calls are easy to install and can relieve the issue of feeling isolated. Also arranging lunch meetings or simply just calling in to say hello. Encouragement and involvement in physical activity and exercise does also really help.
One thing that does need to be adhered to is the monitoring of individuals state of mind, make staff aware of signs and symptoms of depression and tactics of how to combat depression.
Many people suffer in silence and do not even realise that they are depressed. Sleeplessness, lack of energy or even lack of appetite can all be tell tale signs. Education and monitoring is key.
Make sure your staff are aware and make that call!