Working from home workplace bullying

Working from home workplace bullying – I have conducted numerous investigations where emails have been the source of the issues that are claimed as being workplace bullying.

With more and more people working from home as a result of COVID 19 businesses, employers and managers are going to be more dependent on the use of email to communicate. It is important to remember that an email can not express the sentiment behind it and can be easily misinterpreted.

The investigations I have conducted as a result of emails can be categorised as;

  1. Miscommunication due to not being able to express fully via email.
  2. Terse/firm/formal emails send by managers to staff, staff to managers and staff to staff that the receiver has taken offence to
  3. Abusive emails – sometimes it is outright bullying at other times it is borne out of frustration caused by the communication difficulties
  4. Poorly worded or expressed emails – Can it pass the “would you send this to your mother?” test
  5. Aggressive emails sent in response to email received or in response not getting a reply to an earlier email
  6. Emails that on the surface look fine but are taken as bullying, insulting, intimidating, belittling etc by the receiving party.
  7. Phone calls made at times of stress can also result in words being said that were ill conceived and inappropriate.

It is important to remember that working from home on mass is new to many businesses, there may/will be teething problems. It is also very important to remember that a bullying complaints received in the present environment must be addressed quickly and professionally.  Complaints that are not handled immediately in this  remote working setting will fester and grow quickly causing unnecessary stress and anxiety for all parties and may cause complainants to consult Judge Google for answers.

At these times;

  • Look after the mental health of your employees bullying and unresolved complaints can lead to further stress and anxiety
  • Managers/employers may be having difficulties with communications, getting work done or with timelines be patient
  • Your staff may be isolated with no one to talk to about issues and may be feeling more stressed than usual
  • HR may be inundated coping with this new form of working

Some staff especially those new to working from home may take this as an opportunity to duck out and get things done that they wouldn’t normally be able to do. A quick workout, a quick trip to the shops,  or to get a haircut or to go to Bunnings and this may mean that they are not unavailable to respond to emails immediately, possibly causing frustration on the other end.

Don’t neglect complaints. DO NOT put complaints of bullying via email from employees working from home into the too hard basket.  They can’t wait until things return to normal. Remember your Duty of Care.

Another area that businesses should be concerned about is IT security.  With many people working from home is your IT and confidential information secure.  What will you do if you suspect a breach.  This is another area that you cannot leave the investigation on the back burner.

If you don’t have the capacity, experience or expertise to deal with complaints AWPTI is here to help. We can conduct investigations remotely and take the stress away from you –

Working from home workplace bullying – What can employers do

  1. Make sure your behavioural and IT polices are up to date, available and understood
  2. Remind your staff to play nice via email and on the phone
  3. Remind your staff of their responsibilities when it comes to the security of your IT and confidential information
  4. Have a trusted reporting mechanism in place in the case of complaints  – not sure what to do contact AWPTI, we can help contact us
  5. Have a professional and timely investigation process for complaints – AWPTI can help contact us at

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