Wednesday 20 October 2021

Dealing with remote bullying in the workplace

Lockdown saw many people having to work remotely and although there are some key benefits to working from home, it isn't without its troubles. Just because we aren't in physical contact with our bosses and colleagues, doesn't mean that bullying in the workplace has gone away.

Toxic behaviour, offensive language and threatening attitudes can still reach people remotely, whether that's via email, video calls or social media and when the bullying is coming from colleagues rather than strangers or acquaintances, it's not so easy to cut it off.

What is remote bullying

Remote bullying comes in many forms and sometimes you might not even realise that it's bullying behaviour, even though it has a profound effect on your mental health. If you've experienced any of the below, then you should think about whether you may have been on the receiving end of bullying.

  • Being excluded from social events, meetings, or important decision making
  • Offensive or intimidating language
  • Sexual or gender harassment
  • Gossip
  • Colleagues or management persistently criticising your work

This kind of bullying behaviour, even when it's done remotely, can have a serious effect on your mental health. Over time, it could start to affect your sleep patterns. Perhaps you're suffering from insomnia because you're feeling stressed or anxious and replay situations or conversations over in your mind. Or maybe the constant worry is causing you to have headaches and your self-confidence is at an all-time low.

Any form of bullying needs to be nipped in the bud. But it's not always that simple as you might fear that reporting the behaviour could lose you your job or create even more animosity among colleagues. A study carried out by Harvard Business Review prior to covid-19 found that 52% of remote workers felt excluded from decision making and that their colleagues were lobbying against them. While this was carried out by an American organisation, it is likely that following the recent large rise in homeworking in the UK, a similar study carried out in the UK would have similar findings. If you think you are being remotely bullied, ACAS has some helpful information on dealing with bullying and other problems at work. 

How to address bullying in the workplace

There are several ways for both the victim and the company to deal with workplace bullying. If you are the victim of bullying and you feel confident enough to resolve the issues with the bully directly, this could be an immediate solution. Sometimes they might not realise the distress that they are causing you and when confronted calmly, they might start to change their behaviour. However, if you don't feel that this is an option then you should speak to someone in HR, management, or your trade union representative (if you have one) who will then need to deal with the situation. You can also call the free National Bullying Helpline if you need advice and support from somebody not linked to your workplace.

All companies should have a procedures in place that prevent workplace bullying and protect their staff. If the complaint can't be initially dealt with informally, then further action must be taken. 

If you're an employer or manager, has a helpful article for employers tackling bullying of remote workers. 

There is also lots of helpful information on the UK government's website as well as on the ACAS website (link provided above). 

Tuesday 12 October 2021

Returning to work post lockdown

With furlough coming to an end, many people will be returning to the workplace and transitioning from working remotely post lockdown. Lockdown has affected people in many different ways, so it’s inevitable that there will be feelings of uncertainty surrounding this move back to a new normality.

Owing to the extreme fear and confusion that Covid-19 created, many people have suffered from mental health issues, which is totally understandable. Being kept away from close friends and loved ones, having to adapt to working from home or perhaps not working at all, and worrying about the consequences of catching Covid, is all a huge strain on both our mental and physical wellbeing.

How to stay healthy during the transition

Prior to returning to the workplace, it’s very likely you’re going to have some concerns, which may include:
  • How clean and safe is the environment?
  • Will people be social distancing?
  • Will I be able to concentrate in a busier environment?
  • How will I cope with a new routine?

These thoughts are quite normal but if you feel like you’re beginning to get overly concerned and it’s negatively affecting your mental wellbeing, there are things you can put in place to ease the worry and those feelings of anxiety and stress.

  1. Speak with your line manager and any colleagues who have already returned to work. They should be able to reassure you of all the safety procedures that are in place.
  2. Think about how going back to work will affect you regarding the commute times and the additional costs of this, and family commitments or responsibilities. If this is a concern, speak to your manager and see how they can help. They might allow for flexible working hours and have a car share or cycle-to-work scheme in place.
  3. Get yourself into a good daily routine. Go to bed early and get plenty of sleep. Allow plenty of time to prepare yourself before you leave for work and make time for a healthy breakfast. Perhaps you could work out at the gym, go for a swim, or enjoy a morning walk. These types of exercises will boost your mental alertness and energy levels to put you in a more positive mood. A study published by the National Library of Medicine showed that “participants in randomized clinical trials of physical-activity interventions show better health outcomes, including better general and health-related quality in life, better functional capacity and better mood states.”
  4. If you start to feel anxious once you’re back at work, try using a few coping methods to help you to stay calm. Practise breathing techniques or take a walk in the outdoors, both of which are great for helping you to relax, quieten the mind and focus.

If you still feel anxious, stressed or even depressed and it’s affecting your mental wellbeing, please seek professional advice.

You might also find these First Psychology resources helpful: