Halloween horror stories

When the workplace gets scary

Oct 30, 2019 | Feature

The spookiest day of the year is upon us – but it’s not just ghosts and ghouls that can give you a fright. Sometimes, the most shocking stories can happen at work.

Here are a few scary stories of employees being viewed as commodities not assets, and how to stop them becoming a reality in your workplace.

Big brother is watching

We live in a world where traceability is normal. Between ‘find my friends’, CCTV and social media you can always see what people are up to. But when this level of surveillance creeps into the workplace, it becomes a little unnerving.

According to recent reports from Australia and New Zealand, Domino’s has started using ‘The Dom Pizza Tracker’ – essentially, in-store cameras and sensors that monitor internal quality standards. This is then tied into a ‘scorecard bonus system’ – which is where things get problematic. Having a machine not only monitor the employee’s actions, but reward or reprimand them accordingly, is a pretty scary eventuality. Although Domino’s has stressed that they won’t be using this system to punish underperforming employees, it feels like it still equates people to nothing more than cogs in a wheel.

Earlier this year, multiple British businesses were reported to be using Artificial Intelligence to monitor employees also, using specific systems to do so. Understandably, employers want to know how their resources are being used, but does the minutiae of how people approach their work really matter as long as it gets done? Monitoring systems that are too invasive strip any semblance of trust away from employees, running the risk of disengagement and even mental health issues.

Although there is a place for workplace monitoring, we would always suggest using internal communications to promote productivity, encouraging employees to be the best they can be, before looking into this option.

Everyone is welcome (except you) 

Discrimination has no place in any workplace, but unfortunately that doesn’t stop it from rearing its ugly head. One example of this is the treatment of many women on their return to work from maternity leave, and working mothers in general. From being forced to do a full-time job on part-time hours to not being put forward for promotions, 77% of working mums face negative or discriminatory treatment in the workplace according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Much of this is down to outdated views on how work ‘should be’. Working late every day isn’t sustainable and working mums, or any employee, shouldn’t be penalised for not doing this. Similarly, it’s a flexible working world, so if there’s no reason to be in the office, no one should be punished for asking to work from home. And yet, often they are, leading to the creation of multiple groups and campaigns – like pregnant then screwed who aim to support and protect mums returning to work, and flexappeal from Mother Pukka, who is working to change the conversation about flexible working.

Creating a culture where work-life balance is respected, flexibility is encouraged, and there is an appreciation for the skills that working mums and other employees can bring to work from their home life, should be an absolute priority for all businesses.

Sit down and shut up – onboarding issues

First impressions count, so a structured onboarding process is a given in most places, right? Wrong. It’s not unheard of for new starters to arrive at work to no desk or equipment, or to have to chase for information on what to do on day one. Those are just the ‘easy to sort’ issues, and this article tells the tale of some real shockers.

If a new starter feels like an inconvenience from the minute they arrive, it doesn’t give off great vibes about the company. The first few days in a new job are stressful enough, trying to learn the ropes and get to know your new, co-workers while trying not to get in anyone’s way.

Every company needs an agreed onboarding programme, tailored to their business needs. It will make all new starters feel welcomed, but will also make life easier for HR. Whether it’s a tour of the offices followed by reading business policies or a full-blown presentation and three-month plan – make sure everyone is on board when it comes to onboarding.

A few scary scenarios…

• Not having breakout areas for employees. It doesn’t have to be a canteen, but having somewhere for employees to be able to make a brew and take five is crucial to making people comfortable at work.

• No meeting spaces. We are big supporters of an open-plan office to encourage interaction at work, but private areas are necessary for people to discuss private and sensitive issues.

• Stress competitions. Some work cultures promote competitive stress, but in the long run employees will burn out and you’ll get less done. Remind people that they should be able to manage their work during their workday, with only the odd exception.

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