For most of 2020, the COVID-19 virus has proven to pose a health threat to TEC monitoring service staff, and the people they come into contact with. This Guide, which forms part of a series of documents for Safe Working Environments, aims to provide additional advice to help manage the risk.
During pandemics or outbreaks of disease, when infection can pass quickly between members of a call handling team who work in close proximity to each other, the ability of staff to handle calls from home may be a practical step in managing a crisis
An increasing number of monitoring centre staff are likely to be carers, or they will have responsibilities that make it difficult for them to be away from home at work for most of the week; an opportunity to work at home on some days may be attractive to them. They may also be classed as vulnerable themselves and need to be “shielded”, but this does not necessarily mean that they are unable to work.
Travel difficulties make home working a practical alternative to working from a set location, especially during holiday periods and at times of poor weather and road conditions are bad. Staff working from home can be more flexible in providing additional call handling capacity at times of peak demand.
Improvements in telecommunications infrastructure, virtual private networks and call handling platforms, have enabled home working to become a viable option for telecare monitoring centres. Some organisations are developing virtual call centres that allow home workers to handle all incoming calls. People with special counselling, clinical or language skills may increasingly work from home on an “on-call” basis.
Many responder and installation services, already operate “on-call” functions by utilising home working, which can be extended to the normal working day, minimising the need to attend the office other than a for specific reasons, such as to collect equipment.
Staff with physical disabilities may have excellent interpersonal skills enabling them to empathise with service users, but may be unable to travel to a monitoring centre on a daily basis, so home working becomes a convenient option for them.
Home workers may help service users to accept the use of national (or international) monitoring centres by providing some local knowledge and accents. The effects of working from home needs to be considered holistically, so that the home working environment does not adversely affect the health and well-being of staff, their families, or causes disruption for neighbours.
TSA has provided some specific guidance with regard to call handling services, which can be found below and has been revised, following learning from organisational experiences of offering TEC Services from home.
Updated 13th November 2020