Lone Worker Check in: Phones vs. Mobile Apps

Effective methods for a lone worker to check in when offsite often presents challenges. The “tried and true” approach to lone worker check in is simply having the employee phone in to check in. However, that system is fraught with errors as calls are missed or people often forget to check in. If a call center is used, it becomes very costly. In addition, occupational health regulations can sometimes be frustratingly vague, leaving the employer to figure out how to uphold a duty of care with their employees. Recently, several different cloud-based apps have come to the forefront to offer new solutions to old problems.

However, before sifting through the range of options, the first question is simple:  Is it worth the switch?

Below are some pros and cons of traditional phone call check-in procedures and app-based services.


No Extras Necessary

It should go without saying that phone check-in protocols only require a phone. This simple solution can be effective when check-ins are only needed sporadically, or when workers are alone or in at-risk situations.

No Training

By far the biggest pro of phone check-ins. There is virtually zero onboarding involved, nor any user orientation with an employee check in check out app interface or software.


Hidden Labour Costs

Remember the notion that phone check-ins were the cheap option? Not so much. A phone check-in interrupts workflow for not just one, but two employees. That math can add up in a hurry. Suddenly, this solution isn’t so cheap anymore.

Monitoring/Compliance Issues

Who ensures that the check-in calls get made? Or that the call is received? How are records kept in anticipation of an OHS audit or insurance issue? Compliance can be difficult to enforce with phone call check-ins. Complacency is a risk when individuals make the same routine phone calls multiple times a day. The lack of easily generated tracking data negatively impacts the effectiveness of phone call check-ins.

Inconvenient Timing

The lone worker does not dictate when exactly their check-in call will come… which means timing will often be less than ideal. Whether their hands are full, or they are with a client, the check-in call is perceived as a nuisance rather than an assist. Furthermore, missed phone calls result in time-consuming phone tag or supervisors doubling back on their call list. Either way, it further compounds the following issue.

Productivity Drag

Because there is no direct oversight, many companies have pre-determined KPIs, metrics and targets their lone workers are expected to hit. Employees, who are keenly aware of these targets, are frustrated by check-ins that interrupt their task performance.


Quick and Simple

An app-based check-in can be done in less than 10 seconds and with fewer than three taps. Check-in intervals can be extended or restarted as needed. Lone workers have the option of including contacts other than their direct supervisor to know they are safe and secure.

Flexible for User

That problem of a worker having their hands full when the phone rings? With app-based check-ins, employees can extend, restart, or check-out at any point in the interval. This puts the user back in control and allows them to check-in when convenient, eliminating the productivity drag of traditional phone calls.

Reporting and Compliance Capacity

Check-in apps can be customized to generate reports detailing alerts, missed check-ins, and date-and-time information for incidence reports. Rather than relying on employee memory and hoping paperwork does not go missing, this functionality can be available to employers with just a few clicks.


An app-based employee check-in check-out software can pair with other services to provide a broader range of protection for employees can be customized to unique circumstances. COVID-Screening for healthcare providers that unlocks the check-in procedure or a wearable panic button that can sync with the check-in app to call for immediate help are illustrations of leveraging the app model. App-based solutions can be more than a one-trick pony without sacrificing simplicity and convenience.


Up Front Expense (but…)

The “sticker price” on an app-based check-in system is higher than the “free” phone calls. But while the app check-in system carries a monthly subscription (as well as any cost associated with additional value-added services like wearables), this cost pales when factoring in employee time. Based on one-minute check-ins every two hours, the “below surface” cost adds up fast.