How to prevent bullying of remote workers

The pandemic has brought a whole host of changes to the way we work on a daily basis. As well as attending virtual meetings, getting little to no face-to-face interaction, and adapting to a brand-new routine, your people will have started to adapt to working on their own.

Although this level of independence can often promote better productivity, it can make it difficult for you to spot the signs of potential bullying among remote workers can easily go unnoticed. You may not even know it’s taking place.

Bullying isn’t always visible and can often be delivered in subtle, covert ways. The large-scale move to remote working that’s taken place in light of the pandemic risks further hiding what already can be quite subtle. When you’re not in the same workspace as your people, it makes potential bullying even harder to spot.

So, with homeworking set to continue for the foreseeable, and bullying among those working remotely so hard to spot, what can you do as an employer? Some useful starting points include:

  • understanding the signs of potential bullying in your remote and home workers
  • the kind of measures you can put in place to avoid potential remote bullying
  • how to handle accusations of remote bullying

What does bullying look like?

Unfortunately, workplace bullying isn’t restricted to just one form. It can make an employee feel distressed, intimidated and mistreated. Forms of bullying include:

  • Spreading rumours about someone
  • Mocking or ridiculing a colleague (or an employee)
  • Harmful practical jokes
  • Singling someone out without reason
  • Continuous criticism and constant ‘micro-management’.

You can read more on bullying and how to handle complaints here.

Spotting the signs of bullying in your home workers

Lack of confidence – Have you noticed a formerly confident, talkative employee has suddenly become quiet or withdrawn?

Underperformance – Sometimes underperformance or a significant drop in performance can be a result of bullying, which can knock an employee’s confidence and self-esteem.

Poor concentration – Have you noticed your usually engaged employee has suddenly become distant or preoccupied? Bullying is a huge distraction for employees, and they might not be able to stop it from taking over their thoughts.

Irritable – This sign can be quite easy to spot and can come in the form of a short temper, snappy remarks or even an emotional outburst.

Tiredness – If you have virtual meetings with your employees, look out for signs of feeling ‘worn out’.  These could include dark circles under the eyes, head in hands, regular yawning or sighing.

How to prevent remote bullying

Check in

Throughout the pandemic, you’ve probably had regular catchups with your employees to check on their progress. You might be going over their day-to-day tasks or keeping them updated with business news and announcements. But have you checked in to see how they’re feeling?

Keeping in regular contact with your employees not only supports their wellbeing; it’s a perfect opportunity to check in and see if there’s anything bothering them.

Providing training

In a world with ever more progressive views, what may have once been seen as ‘harmless’ can actually be extremely damaging. It’s important to remind your employees exactly how many forms of bullying there are, and how behaviour can make colleagues of all backgrounds feel.

Emphasise your policies on bullying

It’s important to take a stand on workplace bullying – not just to prevent it, but to make sure your employees that they feel safe and supported. Include your policies in all company handbooks or other workplace documentation, such as staffroom posters or email memos. Have regular refreshers to remind people what your policies are.

Help your managers to support their team

It may be easy to claim lack of knowledge if somebody is being bullied. It’s part of a line manager’s job to help make their teams feel safe and supported. Helping your leadership team spot the signs of bullying in general – and how to do this when the team is working from home – is a good starting point to empower them to address anything that doesn’t seem right.

How to handle workplace bullying accusations

Understanding and spotting the signs of bullying is the perfect way to put a stop to anything early. But what do you do when an employee makes an accusation of workplace bullying from another member of your business? Here we outline a seven-step process to confidently manage any accusations:

  1. Take the complaint seriously and assure the employee you will investigate.
  2. Ask them how they would like the situation to be dealt with – what would be the ideal solution?
  3. Encourage them, sensitively, to share as many details as they’re comfortable with.
  4. Be supportive throughout – don’t suggest they’re overreacting – bullying can affect people in different ways.
  5. Reassure your employee that all complaints will be handled confidentially
  6. It’s a good idea to take notes in your first meeting, so you don’t have to ask someone to continually repeat upsetting information.
  7. If a manager is being accused of bullying, it’s essential that you pass the complaint on to a more senior manager.

Tackle bullying in the workplace with Citation

Bullying will always be a sensitive subject, so making sure you can manage any accusations right the first time is really important.

If you need help managing workplace conflict or putting together a robust workplace bullying policy and communicating that out to your whole team, our HR & Employment Law experts can be by your side for support.

If you’d like the backing of our team, give us a call on 0345 844 1111 to chat to our team about your business’ needs. And remember, if you’re already a Citation client, you can call our advice line 24/7 for support and guidance.

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