To protect remote workers’ health and safety, rely on a shared vision, inclusion and knowledge pooling
Scientific Newsflash and Courses of Action
Fewer in-person interactions between managers and employees, limited access to information and trouble monitoring and anticipating risks are some of the challenges that managers have to deal with to protect remote workers’ health and safety. With workplace health and safety now more relevant than ever, how can the health and safety of out-of-sight employees be the focus of managers’ concerns?
This initiative is supported by the Chief Scientist of Quebec, in collaboration with the Fonds de recherche du Québec.
Laurence Bouchard is a Ph.D candidate in organizational psychology (Ph.D R/I) at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Her thesis focuses on the relationship between management practices and the workplace psychological health of remote workers.
The contents on a purple background are the doctoral student’s recommendations.
WHAT IS MEANT BY…?
Allow a worker to perform their tasks appropriately and handle the requirements of their job (e.g.: conditions that could threaten their health or safety). The resources can be:
- individual (e.g.: resilience, optimism)
- team (e.g.: support for colleagues in following safety rules, a positive team environment)
- management (e.g.: quality relationship with their manager, manager’s health and safety leadership)
- organizational (e.g.: human resource management practices and policies, sense of inclusion in the organization).
The influence that the manager exercises so that employees are concerned about health and safety when carrying out their duties.
The perception of being part of the organization, of not being isolated and of being an integral part of the social network.
WHAT DOES A RECENT STUDY ABOUT MANAGING REMOTE WORKERS’ HEALTH AND SAFETY SHOW?
The health and safety leadership behaviours of the immediate manager promote remote workers’ health and safety.
Workers whose managers prioritize health and safety are healthier and more proactive regarding health and safety issues (e.g.: they identify potential and unexpected risk factors). Teams with a shared vision of behaviours, instilled in them by their manager, are more committed to workplace health and safety.
The workplace health and safety leadership behaviours of the manager are more effective when remote workers feel included in the organization.
When the manager adopts workplace health and safety leadership behaviours and when remote workers see themselves as stakeholders in the organization, they report better health, they more readily follow safety rules, and they are more proactive in assuming responsibilities.
An environment that promotes knowledge-sharing among colleagues increases workers’ compliance with safety rules.
In the absence of manager health and safety leadership behaviours, knowledge-sharing among colleagues serves as a resource for remote workers. An environment that promotes the sharing of workplace health and safety knowledge (e.g.: giving advice to, or getting advice from, a colleague) leads to better worker compliance with security rules.
COURSES OF ACTION TO PROMOTE REMOTE WORKER HEALTH AND SAFETY MANAGEMENT
Promote the adoption of workplace health and safety leadership behaviours.
- Establish clear health and safety procedures and policies that include remote workers.
- Facilitate the development and adoption of behaviours that promote workplace health and safety (e.g.: training managers, offering mentorships).
- Get regular updates about your remote workers’ work conditions so that you can quickly spot new risks (e.g.: at the beginning of each meeting or shift).
- Organize virtual meetings to develop a shared vision of workplace health and safety practices to adopt.
- Establish a work structure by clearly specifying what is expected of employees in terms of their role in health and safety (e.g.: following rules and procedures).
- Convey your workplace health and safety concerns to your manager (e.g.: having trouble following guidelines) as well as concerns about your work conditions (e.g.: having trouble ergonomically organizing your workstation due to the absence of a room in the house dedicated to work).
- Inform your manager when a rule or procedure cannot be applied to your situation and propose an alternative (e.g.: use another type of keyboard).
- Provide feedback to your manager on their workplace health and safety behaviours so they can make adjustments; distance prevents them from seeing the effects of their behaviours.
- Be proactive and contribute to discussions on good health and safety practices to adopt (e.g.: proposing improvements to rules and procedures).
Promote a sense of inclusion.
- Ensure that communications concerning activities organized by the organization bring remote workers together (e.g.: physically send mail to their houses instead of placing it in their employee mailbox or sending it via the intranet or even email).
- Create opportunities to virtually get the team together to prevent a feeling of isolation among remote workers (e.g.: discussions over shared coffee breaks).
- Show your workers respect (e.g.: ask employees about their health and safety concerns).
- Get involved in the company’s social and networking events (e.g.: being a member of an event’s organizing committee).
- Take advantage of social and networking events to learn how to get to know your colleagues (e.g.: identifying those with whom you share common interests).
Foster a knowledge-sharing environment.
- Organize social events and virtual networking events (e.g.: a virtual escape room) to build relationships among workers so they can feel justified to ask a colleague for help and therefore contribute to workplace health and safety knowledge-sharing.
- Establish and distribute to workers a list of resource people with their specific skills (e.g.: workstation ergonomics) and their contact details (e.g.: provide a mobile device with preloaded contact details).
- Share information, among other things, on remote workers’ workplaces and work schedules (e.g.: provide a portable electronic device to make them readily available).
- Use and personalize your list of resource people, taking your colleagues’ skills into account (e.g.: identify each person’s skills; know who to contact regarding a specific issue).
- Actively participate in sharing workplace health and safety knowledge with your colleagues (e.g.: offer or ask for advice and support to follow safety rules).
- Share and discuss with your colleagues any workplace health and safety problems encountered.
HOW TO REFERENCE THIS SCIENTIFIC NEWSFLASH
Bouchard, L. (2020). To protect remote workers’ health and safety, rely on a shared vision, inclusion and knowledge pooling. Global-Watch Scientific Newsflash, available at www.global-watch.com
Flash written under the direction of France St-Hilaire, full professor of Human Resources at the Université de Sherbrooke’s School of Management.
FULL STUDY REFERENCES
Nielsen, K., Daniels, K., Nayani, R., Donaldson-Feilder, E., & Lewis, R. (2019). Out of mind, out of sight? Leading distributed workers to ensure health and safety. Work & Stress, 33(2), 173-191.
 Adapted from Nielsen et al. (2019)
Also available at Global-watch.com
- Scientific interpretation: COVID-19: How can telework be adapted to maintain employee well-being during the COVID-19 crisis