Business owners, dispatchers, and field technicians have always been concerned with safety, mitigating risk, and reducing hazards. The primary goal of any organization with field service as part of its mandate is to ensure that both employees and customers remain free from harm. Field service worker safety is essential.
Field service worker safety under COVID-19
In the past, companies typically confirmed health and safety requirements were fulfilled by conducting regular safety audits, inspections, and incident reports. With the spread of COVID-19, field service worker safety has become a matter of life or death, and a greater number of precautions have been added. Measures such as wearing masks and personal protective equipment, social distancing, disinfection of surfaces, and health checks are now included in a field service employee’s daily routine.
Beyond these now essential external precautions, companies need to ensure field service employees are not suffering psychologically from the additional weight of the pandemic.
Not addressing these potential stressors could lead to lower technician satisfaction and, by extension, lower customer satisfaction.
With digital transformation, human connection can get lost
ProntoForms’ IdeaShare, co-hosted with the Service Council, included a keynote session on this topic by Dr. Mahesh Subramony, Professor of Management at NIU College of Business.
In his session, Subramony mentioned that we’ve all seen how the pandemic disproportionately affects frontline workers, especially high contact, low-income workers. As a behavioral scientist, Dr. Subramony wondered if there was any correlation between workplace safety and employee engagement for frontline service employees.
There is a definitive link, but when it comes to remote work, it’s important to not forget about loneliness and wellbeing. Organizations should ensure they assess their teams, make it safe to escalate conversations, erase the stigma around mental health, and encourage “being there” in a meaningful way.
But how do you help your field workers truly maintain a work/life balance? How do you put limits on how much they work at home? How do you make sure when a technician is on paid time off that it’s respected? There have to be ways for people to unplug and recharge, and as field service leaders, to find ways to make it happen.
Recommendations for field service leaders
Dr. Subramony—together with a study conducted in Wuhan, China that looked at whether leader commitment to safety has an impact on back to work transition—recommends field service leaders:
- Implement discretionary work practices (not just essential ones). Essential practices (handwashing, PPE, cleaning) reduce perceived threats from COVID and lower levels of employee exhaustion. Additional discretionary practices (like addressing issues about paid leave, non-essential travel and things of that nature) increase feelings of support—which translate into higher levels of engagement and wellbeing—which are predictors of employee performance and discretionary behavior.
- Role model safe behaviors; commit energy and resources to workplace safety. The study conducted in Wuhan found if front line service worker supervisors are committed to safety, specifically if they engage in and resource safety practices, this has a positive effect that tends to lead to employees engaging in safety behaviors—gifting back compliance and higher levels of performance in return.
- Support telecommuting or remote working arrangements with developmental resources, community, and training on managing work-life boundaries
- Focus on employees’ psychological wellbeing and wellness (along with their safety)
Customer experience fuels positive sentiment
People who feel positively about their organization in turn positively represent the organization. When a field technician is happy, when they know they’re performing well and are getting rewarded for that performance, that in turn is conveyed to the customer through behavior, responsiveness, and general affect. The positive customer experience translates into revenue, and that feeds back into the technician’s incentives and sense of accomplishment.
When you have happy, engaged employees, the rest will follow. And technology is a powerful ally towards that end. Check out the full IdeaShare session to see Dr. Subramony’s full talk as well as a panel discussion with leaders from Schneider Electric and Medtronic.