Flexible work arrangements – preventing workplace bullying claims

At a recent networking event, the topic of the day was flexible working arrangements. They can bring about many company benefits including more productive employees.

However, this had me thinking about the question of how flexible working arrangements could result in claims of bullying? Logically, this lead to the next question. If there were, how could you risk proof your company or organisation against workplace bullying claims from implemented flexible workplace arrangements?

How can flexible work arrangements lead to workplace bullying claims?

To understand this question, you need to first consider the type of behaviours that could constitute workplace bullying. Let’s look at how some of those behaviours could interact with flexible work arrangements.

Micro-management

When employees work from home or differing locations, a manager may be overly zealous in checking an employee’s work to ensure they are complying with workplace expectations. Without trust, micro-management might become the reality and result in claims of bullying.

Exclusion

When not in a collective environment, an employee may be excluded from essential communication that allows them to successfully complete their job. This might include team meetings or professional development activities. They might be left out of an email communication loop, which they might have been part of when in an office environment. An employee might be excluded from work social functions because they are not in the office and not seen to be part of the team. Exclusion can lead to claims of workplace bullying.

Unfair rostering

Some employees, when there is a mix of office based and home based work, may claim there is a bias towards other employees in rostering flexible working arrangements. Unfair or biased allocation of flexible arrangements may lead to claims of workplace bullying.

These are just some of the potential behaviours that could lead to claims of workplace bullying out of the flexible workplace environment.

It should be noted this is not to say we won’t make occasional mistakes. However, once off or occasional mistakes are not bullying.

How do you bully-proof your flexible work arrangements?

To mitigate the risks of bullying claims, there are some simple steps you can take. This includes the following.

  • A policy and procedure that outlines what your flexible working arrangements are and the process to ensure equitable access to those arrangements.
  • A sustained effort by managers and team members to ensure all employees are not excluded. Consider how you can ensure a sense of team in a workplace that may not often be in the same physical location.
  • A defined process for monitoring work performance so all employees know what to expect and don’t need to be micro-managed. Ensure that when there are performance issues, your process includes how they will be resolved in a flexible work environment.

As with all workplace processes, hazards and risks need to be identified and mitigated. This includes the intersection between flexible working arrangements and workplace bullying.

This will ensure you can maintain a safe workplace for all your employees.

Are you curious to learn more about preventing and stopping workplace bullying?

Contact us now to start the conversation

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