What is the definition of a lone worker? What does a lone worker mean to you? Does it mean an individual working ‘remote’ in the middle of Queensland, 300-400km from their nearest colleague? Or does it mean working alone in a switch-room on a building site in central Sydney with another 200 people ‘near-by’.

Research on the ever-growing area of the lone worker is somewhat limited to say the least. It is a difficult area and one which will need close attention in the coming years. It is a fantastic opportunity for cross disciplinary research. However, the 21st Century workplace appears to be individually and singularly focused. We are now offsetting what used to be tasks undertaken as a working pair or team, the old buddy system, against the increasingly market-driven desire for workforce ‘flexibility’ with the capability to respond to scheduled and unscheduled tasks, as a stand alone worker.

With this in mind, an ad hoc understanding of the value of integrity is roughly defined as: “Doing what is right – even when no one is watching”. And this links directly to my title – “What interests my boss fascinates me…”

An article in the Harvard Business Review from 2012 (https://hbr.org/2012/06/what-captures-your-attention-c) unexpectedly explored this topic with some surprising results.

I say ‘unexpectedly’ as the article is titled, perhaps with more accuracy, “What Captures Your Attention Controls Your Life.” The article examines a research study of the behaviour of children in Disneyworld with the aim of discovering their targeted attention areas. What the researchers found was that of all the activities and items available across the whole of Disneyworld, the item they were most fascinated with was their parent’s mobile phone. Why? Because that is what the parents were focused on – it is where their attention lay – in other words, that is what interested their ‘line manager’, if you like…

Working on that premise – Leaders, what are you focused on? What is the topic of your daily focus? What is your the broader discourse of risk and safety, of your risk and safety management – of your guidance – what is the main area of your focus? Is it trying to ensure that those under your care, simply don’t make mistakes? Is it to drive home to them the need to avoid all the things that can go wrong? Not actually replicate the things that go well?

We are so busy desperately trying to learn from our mistakes that we have the potential danger of failing to learn from our successes. Of which there are many to choose from. Many successes. The following graph from the EuroCentral Organisational White Paper on Safety Theory (Safety I & Safety II) highlights this crucial field of opportunity. (http://skybrary.aero/bookshelf/books/2437.pdf)

Event probability and safety focus (page 20)

Again, Leaders – where is your main focus? Take some time to think about what you focus on, where you spend both your time and your energies, and please take the time to think just how you communicate your focus and your energy to those seeking your direction. It is very important that you take the time to think. To think whether shifting your focus will be more effective, will be more efficient and have greater impact on those under your care. In their development and in their utility of tools such as personal Risk Perception and Assessment, and of Taking Control. Of understanding their need and ability to STOP when things are not going to plan – to understand and respect the role that “Chronic Unease” plays in our lives. Take a step back, Take 5 even, and to take a different approach – or even to ensure they know they can just simply walk away when they don’t feel safe.

The next question, the graph highlights, is the sheer scale of work undertaken that is successful. Therefore, the next opportunity for us is not to simply focus on how we can avoid making mistakes – but how we can continue to replicate our successes with an increased rate of success? We have a significant and extraordinary pool of knowledge and experience to learn from – our frontline people. The question we need to ask ourselves is not how lone workers can be somehow coerced into doing the right thing, but that we should be asking them and learning from their experiences of what goes well for them, how we can replicate that learning – that experience, and importantly how we can share that learning?

A 20th Century workplace paradigm is one anchored with the mindset of not trusting the worker to do the right thing. The 21st Century workplace paradigm is where ‘we’ are trusted by those at the sharp-end not to hide behind catch-all silver-bullet slogans and slick PR safety campaigns. Where we openly discuss and share learnings, responsibly analyse events, and fully comprehend the learnings. Where we engage in open communication, and where we know we have an obligation to build upon these learnings and then we shall fully appreciate the value of integrity.