How to combat workplace risks in a distributed workforce

May 13, 2022Business, Discussion0 comments

Distributed workforces are not a new concept, but with COVID lingering and many employees preferring the flexibility of hybrid work, businesses are quickly realizing that working across multiple locations instead of having everyone work under one roof is becoming the norm. With a greater focus being put on compliance, stress management, and other workforce challenges in this hybrid setting, what can businesses do to keep their employees and organization safe?

Distributed workforces introduce a new kind of risk for businesses, one that stems from lack of controls, oversight and visibility into the working conditions of their employees. Everything from working setup, engagement with outside parties and vendors to travel now stem from a different and wider environment.

These changes can create new kinds of unsafe or unmonitored work environments, introduce outside risk and complexity, and create greater difficulty in the ability to accurately understand what is happening with any employee as most workers are no longer sitting in the same row, floor, or building as their managers or teams.

Risk managers’ role: Keep employees compliant, healthy, and safe

What can risk managers do to ensure employee safety and compliance is top of mind no matter where employees work? This is the most important question that an employer can ask these days. It’s important to think about culture no longer being representative of what you can see in your four walls, but the way in which employees participate in your environment and uphold your values wherever they may be. This includes making it easy for employees to do the right thing, to understand how to stay safe, healthy, and compliant, and be understanding of the environment that workers are in these days.

Utilizing technologies to allow a serendipitous safety culture to be created is one of the easiest ways to reinforce proper behaviors and understanding. In addition, understanding today’s dynamic risk environment between pandemic, weather, and everything else happening in the world requires a consistent and iterative approach to keeping workers safe and in the know.

Risk management technology lessens emerging  risks while strengthening safety

Distributed workforces require a new approach since traditional coaching, training, and in-person methods no longer provide adequate touchpoints for a worker in a different location. Technology can help to shorten the distance between individuals and create proximity where none existed before. Technologies can help to reinforce and provide up-to-date training, information about key processes, and identification of risks in real time to allow employees anywhere to get best-in-class assistance for mitigating risks at a moment’s notice.

What role does risk management technology play?

This risk management technology also plays a key role in supporting employee safety initiatives. Distributed workers need safety wherever they are, and technology makes that possible. Putting the power of best-in-class safety technologies wherever workers are – whether they are in the field, in their office or working from the comfort of their own home – allows them to be safe and make decisions in real time, all the time. Whether it’s sharing data, suggesting improvements, allowing processes and procedures to be trained or administered correctly, risk management technology puts a company’s safety team right next to every worker all the time. More importantly, connecting the field with the safety team through this technology allows the safety team to improve their efficiencies hundreds of times over, instead of trying to get to every employee all the time.

Incorporating safety in company culture

Safety can easily be incorporated into a company’s culture by having employees at all levels make an effort and getting buy-in from the top. It’s no longer enough for business leaders to say “we’re a safe company.” It’s a continuous investment that has to be made across an organization, from training and culture to providing the right technology to support it. Creating a safety culture unlocks incredible value for companies, but requires an investment to get there. Leveraging an intentional and iterative approach allows any business to tackle issues one at a time and react in real time to new obstacles raised in this ever-changing world. Given the dynamic nature of the world today, it’s becoming more and more challenging to “wing it.” The new world of safety culture creation is one that requires planning, execution, process and a system to support everything businesses are doing to handle the world of today and whatever the world could bring tomorrow.

It feels like the days of people being in the office all the time everywhere are over, but so is the belief that people will be remote forever. The future holds a combination of these two universes brought together, which creates the added complexity of dealing with all of the challenges we faced pre-pandemic with all of the new challenges we face post-pandemic smashed together in one giant mess.

So what can business leaders and risk managers do to navigate this new distributed world? The short answer is to take the best of what you did before, combine it with the best of what you have done since, and put in a process, team, and organizational buy-in to constantly review every situation. With the dynamic nature of risk in the world today, the unpredictability of pandemics and weather events, and the constantly shifting attitudes towards remote work, teams need to be on their toes in a way they never had to be before. Technology helps. Processes help. Leadership buy-in helps. But it can’t be an investment in any one of these approaches. Businesses need a holistic and proactive approach to active risk management to successfully navigate today and the road ahead.

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