Returning to the office

Returning to office and workplace complaints. As a workplace investigator I am seeing a upsurge in complaints of bullying and sexual harassment that could be attributed to  employees forgetting the rules and expectations of the workplace and not being used to a higher level of interpersonal contact.

Returning to the office“For over two years the kids have been stuck inside, now they’re going back to the playground they seem to have forgotten how to play nice.”

It is also important to remember that employees who were hired during the pandemic may never have been to your office and may never have interreacted with the other employees.

Have these employees received training so that they understand the behavioural expectation of your organisation?

Perhaps some new employees have come straight from school or university and have no experience in the workplace and workplace interactions, it’s a whole new world for some people.

Are there other elements that employees, especially new employees don’t understand?

There are many things to consider.

What sort of complaints?

Complaints that I am seeing have been based on;

Office stress

  • Increased work demands
  • Everybody wanting something
  • Inappropriate comments of a bullying and sexually harassing manner
  • Interpersonal disputes
  • Unwanted questions about an employee’s personal life
  • Inappropriate & unwanted jokes of a sexual nature
  • Inappropriate & unwanted interactions and touching

In addition when it comes to complaints against managers it has been due to;

  • Poor communications
  • Higher or different expectations that maybe weren’t there when people were WFH
  • Interpersonal and management style issues

Add to this employees may be under increased stress that they didn’t have when WFH including;Traffic stress

  • Increased travel times and being stuck in capital city traffic
  • Increased costs including petrol (especially at present) tolls, parking & public transport
  • Family needs, juggling childcare, school pick up and drop off
  • Ongoing Covid fears
  • Issues associated with the increased cost of living
  • Returning to a move structured timetable

All of these things can lead to frayed nerves, increased interpersonal conflicts and poor behaviours.

Return to the office – Lessons for employers

  • Be patient, there may be some teething problems
  • Listen to you employees if they raise concerns about re adjusting to life in the office
  • Conduct training to ensure that all our employees understand what bullying and sexual harassment are and what the behavioural expectations of your organisation are
  • Make sure your polices are up to date to ensure that they are supported by your training


When was the last time you conducted workplace bullying or sexual harassment training?Training

How do you know if NOW is the time?

  • If it hasn’t been done in the past 12 months
  • If your employee are returning to the office
  • If you’ve had new employees come on board in the past 2 years
  • If you have had incidences of bullying or sexual harassment in the workplace
  • If remedial action is requeued in the case of complaints
  • If you haven’t done training since the Respect@Work report 2020 was published.
  • If you haven’t done training since the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Act 2022 was passed into Law

Conducting workplace bullying, sexual harassment and misconduct training is part of you as an employer taking all reasonable and proportionate steps to ensure that you satisfy your duty of care.

AWPTI can provide your organisation with our Understanding Workplace Sexual Harassment and Understanding Workplace Misconduct programs. The programs can be delivered in person or remotely via Zoom or MS Teams with a flat rate with no limit on attendees.

Details and content of the programs can be found here
Understanding Workplace Sexual Harassment
Understanding Workplace Misconduct

The programs have been designed and developed and are facilitated by Phil O’Brien, (more details here) a highly skilled and experienced workplace investigator and trainer.  The advantages of having Phil deliver the program for you are;

  • Your participants are able to hear about real life sexual harassment complaints and investigations rather then someone with no real world experience just reading off the script.
  • The sessions are highly engaging with many ‘real world stories’.
  • Your participants are able to ask questions and get answers relating to real life sexual harassment complaints and investigations.
  • We have found that listening to the real life examples and being able to engage and ask questions makes the sessions more enjoyable and very interesting.
  • Based on the feedback we have received, the sessions are engaging and entertaining.

Please contact me if you would like more details or would like to discuss making a booking,

AWPTI – Workplace training national wide and internationally

Workplace investigation based in Sydney, conducting workplace investigations nationwide including Queensland, Victoria and South Australia, Western Australia, the ACT/Canberra, Northern Territory and Tasmania.

Misconduct investigations, bullying investigations, harassment investigations & sexual harassment investigations, complaint investigations, grievance investigations, discrimination investigations