How to protect the mobile workforce

Aug. 1, 2018
Improving communication between businesses and their employees during critical events is paramount

There are two trends colliding in the modern workplace: 1) businesses are increasingly asking employees to travel for work, and 2) the world is an increasingly dangerous place. In fact, there were 96.2 million mobile workers in 2015 and IDC predicts that mobile workers will account for nearly three quarters (72.3 percent) of the total U.S. workforce by 2020. While the growth of mobile workers is a boon to productivity both inside and outside the workplace, it also places a huge responsibility on the organization. Whether they’re on-site, at a different office location, on-the-road, in the field or in the air, all businesses must have the tools and processes in place to ensure their workers’ safety. If not for them, then at the very least for their employees’ families.

Businesses Understand the Importance of Mobile Safety

In a recent research paper entitled, “Safety and Security for Business Travelers, Lone and Remote Workers,” we found that only 37 percent of enterprises maintain an accurate record of where employees are expected to be during working hours.

The feature that almost every enterprise is looking for in a mobile worker safety strategy is the ability to facilitate communication with an employee who is in an area affected by extreme weather, fire, explosion or even an active shooter. These types of incidents occur quickly and often without advanced warning so it’s important that companies have a suite of tools and procedures in place to help them move quickly.

Additional stats from the research underscore how often mobile workers find themselves in harm’s way:

  • 25 percent of employers stated that they have had their mobile workers in the proximity of a workplace violence situation in the past 12 months, while 20 percent have had travelers in the proximity of a terrorist attack within 72 hours of its occurrence.
  • 84 percent of respondents said they had remote workers affected by a location-specific weather event in the last twelve months.

Organizations need to quickly communicate with their employees in case of a critical event. Modern mobile worker safety programs hinge on three key capabilities: understand who potentially could be affected by an event, utilize a “check-in” system that allows employees to let security teams know if they are ok and, finally, provide information that helps them get out of that situation. There are a host of solutions that work towards each of these goals.

Effective Mobile Worker Programs Rely on Elimination

When an event occurs, the first step a security team will do is determine who is not in danger. The beauty of today’s digital world is that everything is connected and many of the devices and technologies we use on a daily basis transmit data instantaneously – meaning employee locations (or, at the very least, last known locations) can be automatically acquired. This is an important opportunity for enterprises because mobile security requires a host of integrated solutions including badge access systems, network access systems, biometric systems and itinerary software track specific employee movements between corporate buildings. Wi-Fi access points act similarly, providing location information linked to laptops, apps and other devices your employees connect to throughout your facilities.

Many enterprises find this to be their first major hurdle when implementing a mobile worker strategy as they use manual processes – i.e., call lists and spreadsheets – to manage their workforce. By tapping into these systems, companies can maintain a database of where their employees are and use that data for triggering automated incident communication for rostering, mustering and site evacuation purposes at the moment emergencies occur.

Simple, Two-Way "All Clear" Functionality

In the previously mentioned report, 78 percent of respondents stated their leadership team would like them to confirm that all their people are safe and accounted for within an hour of a critical event and only 36 percent could do this today.

Cell phones serve as the centerpiece to mobile worker security strategies so it’s important that employees download the necessary app or utility that gives their employers access to them in an emergency. Systems that enable employees to initiate communications are much more impactful in protecting their safety in emergencies. If an employee finds him or herself in an active shooter situation, for example, panic button app capabilities are extremely valuable. Panic buttons have the capability of sending a message to an organization’s security team – automatically transmitting the employee’s location, as well as any shared audio and video with just the push of a button.

Channel-Agnostic Message Delivery

If the check-in messages go unanswered, the first step security teams need to do is pinpoint their employees’ exact location(s). Many solutions allow businesses to use interactive, map-based message targeting to specifically define who will receive their communications. This can be broken down by specific neighborhoods, zip codes or even radius from a specific point.

It’s important that enterprises are able to leverage a variety of communications channels when trying to reach employees in potential danger. Automatically targeting the individual, and not just a cell phone, enables intelligent, personalized message delivery to virtually any communications device including desktop alerts, public websites, Intranets, internal systems and social media.

What’s particularly important for mobile worker programs is the ability to integrate within a specific geographic location seamlessly. Organizations with globally distributed employees, contractors, customers or partners must be able to support local dialects, languages and preferred regional communication methods into their emergency alert systems. Organizations can reduce the difficulty of communicating tasks under pressure and increase recipient comprehension by delivering messages in a local language that is familiar to the recipient.

Notification systems must also comply with all local data privacy and security laws to ensure messages are received by employees in different parts of the world. These laws can differ by region and often restrict the transfer of data over country borders.

About the Author:

Annie Asrari is a Director of Product Management at Everbridge. In this role, she oversees the vision, strategy and execution of the Everbridge Open Ecosystem, the company’s suite of API-powered two-way integrations. In addition, Annie is responsible for Everbridge’s Safety Connection solution, which is designed to help organizations quickly locate and communicate with their people during critical events. 

About the Author

Annie Asrari | Senior Product Manager, Everbridge

Annie Asrari is a Senior Product Manager at Everbridge. In her role, Annie is responsible for the strategy, roadmap and feature definition for Safety Connection, Everbridge’s new product designed to keep your people safe anywhere, anytime.