The influence of smartphone technology on lone working
Recently, Skills for Care has released its much anticipated guide ‘Supporting staff that regularly work alone’¹, focused around the lone workers of the home care sector.
With more than 8 million lone workers currently within the UK, making up approximately 22% of the UK workforce, businesses are constantly looking for ways to help improve the lives of their lone workforce.
Although most lone care workers depend on their own experience and knowledge to complete their role fully, there has been a considerable rise in the use of mobile technology to aid their day-to-day activities.
Over the last decade the care sector has seen a considerable change in how lone workers interact with both their office base and their clients, thanks to smartphone devices. With the introduction of mobile apps, GPS tracking and real-time alerts the management and daily activities of lone workers has become easier, safer and more flexible than ever.
Lone workers are now using smartphone technology for more than just checking their schedule. Nowadays, mobile phones and mobile internet allow people to interact with one another much easier. Through text messaging, social media and popular group chat apps people are talking and discussing work as if they were standing around the coffee machine in an office.
Mobile chat can also be used to offer training, guidance and help lone workers develop within their working role, alongside the standard practice of classroom teaching or e-Learning. With a wider range of accessible information, especially within a mobile setting, the risk of an incident is lowered for those with less experience and knowledge of their role, as the help they need is often at the end of their fingertips.
Health & safety out in the field
The most demanding and important part of managing a lone worker team is the monitoring of their health and safety which can be very difficult and demanding, as every environment is different. The Health and Safety Executive for the UK Government deems: “It is the employer’s duty to take every reasonable precaution to ensure the safety of lone workers and to carefully consider and deal with any health and safety risks for people working alone”.
As part of the guide, the Skills for Care team has given tips on how to meet these specifications, such as an example of “having a process and system for lone workers to regularly clock in and out, for example, of each home or service visit – this could be, for example, via an app”.
Through Unique IQ’s IQ:timecard MOBILE app, lone care workers can clock in and out of their schedules, providing reassurance to office staff for both their safety and confirmation they have attended a scheduled visit.
Upon clocking into the app, the lone worker will also confirm their GPS location, a factor which has been acknowledged by the Care Quality Commission as an important part of the safety aspect within the role. As cited in the Skills for Care guidance, the uses of an app was integral to a home care agency’s ‘outstanding’ rating for ‘safety’. “The app (that the agency utilised) used geo-tagging which enabled the service to monitor that the care worker had arrived safely at the property and their time of arrival. The application monitored when the care worker left and enabled the service to monitor the time that had been spent with the person”.
Overcoming workload allocation hurdles
The guide also touches upon how a major factor for lone workers is their mental health, and the management of their workload is an important issue within this, ensuring they are not overworked and causing unnecessary stress. Skills for Care states, “Having a robust process for assessing staffing levels and allocating workloads based on the needs of the people that you support, ensures that you have enough of the right workers to deliver high quality, person-centred care and support, and reduces burnout”.
Allocating workloads can be a tricky task, especially during different times of the day when the number of needed staffing levels can increase or decrease within a short period, such as breakfast, lunch and bed. Unique IQ’s IQ:careplanner is an easy to use system, designed for quick and effective navigation to schedule lone workers within specific timeframes, ensuring staff are allocated fairly and preventing long hours or overlapping shifts.
To help tackle the feeling of loneliness and improve the care that people receive, Skills for Care has advised, “matching lone workers to the people they support based on similar personalities and/or interests”. As part of IQ:careplanner, there are ‘client profiles’ containing information about the person under care, including interests they may share, details about themselves and important information a lone worker can take into consideration during their visit. The integrated ‘best matching; feature can be used to remove the manual processing of this task, helping to reduce administration times for office staff and reassuring lone workers they will be matched to a similar person of interest. All of these factors go towards helping to improve the experience for all involved.
Job satisfaction & beyond
The research carried out by Skills for Care found job satisfaction amongst lone workers was high, with 80% of participants giving positive feedback on their role.
The developments within technology, mobile internet and smart phones have already had a positive impact on the role for lone workers. The continued improvements of current apps, upgrades to mobile internet, such as the rolling out of the 5G network and the introduction of new devices which will allow for wider communication and opportunities to learn on the job will all help towards improving the lives and safety of lone workers for years to come.
If you wish to find out more about how Unique IQ can bring a solution to an aspect to your lone worker team, please get in touch.