How to make it safer for employees to work non-business hours

How to make it safer for employees to work non-business hours

It is common for small businesses to have employees who work non-business hours. Here’s how to ensure they are safer when they’re in the office before standard opening time, after closing time, weekends and holidays.

  1. Improve exterior office safety

    Take these steps to improve the safety outside of your office:

    • Take dawn and dusk photos of: the parking lot, the parameter of the building, alley and dumpster area, walkways and buildings next door to the property. Scrutinize the photos for less than obvious security issues. And then use the photos to show security system providers what your needs are (alarm, security cameras, motion sensor lights, etc.).
    • Don’t give easy cover to someone looking for a place to hide. Keep bushes and trees near doors and windows trimmed. Use ground lighting beneath bushes. Dumpsters and company vehicles should not visually or physically obstruct exits.
    • Ask employees who work non-business hours to report when lights are out around the property and in the parking lot. Task the office manager with adjusting timers on exterior lights to correspond with daylight saving time.
    • Install a key card entry system that only allows access through electronically powered doors with a company allocated card.
    • Make sure company signage and the building’s address is visible from the street. If there is an emergency, first responders shouldn’t have to guess if they’re at the right location.
    • Start a Business Watch program. Reach out to other business owners about ways to keep each other’s businesses and employees safe. Ask them to contract as a group for security personnel, cameras, exterior lighting between properties and to meet regularly with law enforcement to address mutual security concerns.
    • Designate smoking areas within safe proximity to the building. And strongly discourage employees from taking smoke breaks in these areas alone after dark.
    • Encourage employees to use a buddy system when they take breaks and when they leave the property during non-business hours.
  2. Enhance interior office safety

    Take these steps to improve the safety inside of your office:

    • Prohibit employees, guests, pizza delivery folks, janitorial services, etc., from using doors adjacent to a parking lot or an alley. Require everyone to use the main door.
    • Provide employees with a roster of shift workers, maintenance/service people, delivery companies, etc. who are expected and approved to be on the property after hours.
    • Instruct all employees on what to do if there is an emergency. Specifically, list what steps to take when a supervisor is not on the premises.
    • Ensure employees know what constitutes an emergency. Depending on the company, a malfunctioning printer may or may not be a business emergency. Post guidelines in common areas that detail the appropriate response for natural disasters, medical emergencies, fires or criminal incidents.
  3. Establish non-business hours policies

    Set office safety policies:

    • Create a handout specifically for non-business hours policies. Hold a question and answer session for staff to review and sign.
    • Require employees who don’t normally work non-business hours to get permission from supervisors to do so. And have supervisors pass those permissions on to HR. In case of an emergency there should be reasonable knowledge about the number of people in the office at 8 p.m.
    • Prohibit employees from using the office during these hours for non-work activities (no weekly poker nights).
    • Employees should check with a supervisor before allowing anyone inside the building. This applies to people identifying themselves as a client/customer, contractor, delivery person, or a friend of a coworker.
    • Reinforce the company’s policy on non work related internet use. 61 percent of small businesses in a recent study by the Ponemon Institute reported they had been victims of cyber attacks in 2017. With fewer people around during non-business hours the temptation for employees to skirt the internet use rules increases the business’s exposure to cyber attacks.
    • Encourage employees to “see something-say something.” If a coworker or a supervisor is doing something that may compromise the safety of others or the business, have a system that allows employees to share this information without fear of repercussions.
  4. Safeguard property

    Take steps to help keep employee and company property safe:

    • Advise employees on how to keep office property and personal property safe. During these non-business hours people may be working alone, unsupervised and unobserved. Which can make them vulnerable to theft by other employees and others with permission to be on the property.
    • Instruct staff to lock their offices, computers, file cabinets and other unauthorized personnel areas at the end of the work day or during breaks.
    • Provide the staff with tips on how to protect against personal property theft at work. Statistics show desks, jackets and briefcases are often the first place a thief will look. And stashing purses and backpacks under desks and in file drawers are predictable “hiding” places. Encourage employees to leave extra credit cards, excess cash and checkbooks at home.
  5. Offer offsite options

    Allow employees to work remotely.

    • Assess the needs of employees who are not required to work non-office hours, but request to do so. Fewer nonessential people onsite means fewer workers to manage and to keep safe.
    • Allow employees to sign-out company laptops, paper files and other portable items they need to work productively offsite.
    • Give them access from home to login to office emails and other company software systems and permission to contact an IT employee for help when necessary.