Safe as houses

A model house on a table with someone’s hands either side, protecting it.
Written by Emily van Rooyen,

Maybe you’ve had the same response too? That moment when you’re excitedly telling your Mum about your career as a qualitative researcher and her reaction is ‘You’ll be paying strangers to visit their houses and chat? Are you sure about this…?’

Poor Mum, she was seriously lacking in sleep during those early days as a student drinker, before you left home – ‘You know I can’t get to sleep until I know you’re home safely’ – and now it’s happening all over again.

But we’re much wiser now and moderator safety is something we take seriously at Gusto. Here’s a few things our qualitative researchers take into consideration when planning and conducting fieldwork…

Use Trusted Recruiters

We’ve got a great relationship with our recruiters, who know us at an individual level and wouldn’t put us in a compromising position. Our recruiters help screen potential participants to make sure they fit the project criteria and listen out for any early warning signs on our behalf.

Plan Ahead

Once you know where you’re going, check Google Street View to sound out the area first. Maybe see if it’s possible for the interview to take place in a pre-booked meeting room or a local coffee shop, even if the incentive to get them there has to be a little higher, it’s worth it. Allowing plenty of time between interviews also ensures we’re more alert to potential risks, as opposed to rushing around and not being able to properly assess the situation. On the day, make sure someone knows your schedule/whereabouts (contact details/locations should be easy for them to find); we regularly check in with the office so colleagues aren’t worrying over the unknown.

Be Aware

Once you get there, be mindful of the surroundings by assessing the layout of the building and working out the quickest escape route in the event of an emergency. If something doesn’t feel right, make your excuses and leave – the interview can always be replaced.

Last Resort

The idea is that we’ll never need to use them, but a must-have item in our moderator kit is a screech alarm, just in case.

We’re always thinking about the research from a respondent point-of-view, providing reassurances around anonymity, confidentiality and how their details will be used, and making sure we’re building rapport so they feel comfortable talking to us. But moderator safety should be given just as much focus during any research project.

Now, let’s get onto booking that self-defence course for the team so we’re even more prepared!

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