Keep your workforce safe and happy in rapidly changing landscape
Posted on May 7, 2020
The way we work has changed massively over the past few weeks and it might never return completely to the office-based format many were used to – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
In some cases, the entire rule book has been thrown out when it comes to the ways we’re used to working. Hours have changed to accommodate childcare requirements; people are video calling in from their living rooms and taking mid-afternoon breaks to tackle the madness in Tesco.
The current climate has made a lot of people more stressed than ever. In the workplace specifically, many employees are anxious, whether it’s due to changes in working patterns, because new ways of working have thrown them, or because they’re finding it difficult to communicate and know they’re doing the right thing without face-to-face interaction.
Add to this, the fact that being behind a screen often makes it easier for bullying to take place – whether intentional or not – and you’re left with a big cultural issue if it’s not managed properly.
So, it’s really important for business leaders to safeguard employees, look after their team’s mental wellbeing, and help prevent seemingly insignificant micro-aggressions – such as abrupt language in an email or passive aggression on a video call – from becoming a much bigger problem for both the team and the business.
All employees should be made aware of what’s expected of them in terms of conduct – especially now while working from home where many regular policies have become redundant. These codes of conduct need to be reviewed on a regular basis, if they weren’t already in place in your ‘normal’ working life, it’s going to be more of an issue now.
The significant increase in online activity over recent weeks has opened up a can of worms when it comes to workplace misconduct. In fact, the removal of face-to-face contact with people can make harassment campaigns even easier. We’re all aware of keyboard warriors and online ‘trolls’ attacking celebrities. Unfortunately, this has now translated into the workplace in some cases.
Essentially, if someone acted inappropriately in the physical workplace – and this doesn’t have to just mean significant acts of aggression – this behaviour can easily translate to online harassment. And you need to be able to identify and resolve these issues, whether they happen in the ‘traditional’ workplace or not.
Whether we’re working remotely or from an office, organisations need to have a clear and unbiased sense of their business culture and any problem areas. If you haven’t got that clear level of understanding already, that’s where you need to start. Many HR teams will already have reporting platforms and processes in place to enable employees to safely report harassment, but if you’re not already, now’s the time to shout about them and remind your team of what’s available to them.
It’s really important to have clear reporting pathways in place, encouraging people to speak up if they do witness something concerning or that goes against company policy.
Given the increase in online activity, and to protect the anonymity of those reporting inappropriate behaviour, online reporting software generates the best results both for the person reporting and long-term impact on the business. In fact, publicising the fact that you’re committed to ending any harassment in the workplace by implementing reporting software can reduce instances of harassment itself.
New policies also need to be communicated and be accessible to all staff – currently working or furloughed – with those that do speak out against bullying encouraged and supported for doing so, rather than perpetuating any stigma.
Since the start of the lockdown, employees around the country have shown their dedication and commitment to the businesses they work for.
It’s now time for you to lead from the top and show your commitment to their wellbeing in the workplace, even if the workplace is their kitchen table for the foreseeable future.