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Leaving Lockdown

14th Jul 2020

For many people, when lockdown started, their working lives were changed enormously. Many people found themselves working from home and many were furloughed. As lockdown eases, working lives will change again.

There will be a lot of mixed feelings about returning to work. It may be exciting and something some people have wished for. Others may be angry and feel ‘forced’ back to work too soon. People may be feeling anxious, worried or frustrated. They may be worried about safety on public transport, social distancing whilst at work or simply leaving their family.

It could also be that they are worried about returning to a place where, before lockdown, they were bullied, isolated and humiliated. Unlike childhood bullying, adult bullying is not usually a focus of attention. In the workplace, many people tend to just get on with their jobs and try to ignore what is happening to them. Research shows 33% of people are bullied at work but is there potential for bullying in the workplace to increase as emotions run high? The pressure on those who have had to work as normal throughout lockdown has been huge but as traffic increases and more people are going out could this lead to an emotionally charged atmosphere based on fear and uncertainty which could then lead to bullying behaviour?

The difficulty in dealing with bullying in the workplace is multifaceted. Bullying is often subtle and occurs through insidious comments or words, or through demeaning or belittling behaviour. In some areas, sadly bullying is part of an accepted culture.

As hard as it may seem, you need to reach and speak to someone. Don’t struggle through the pressure of workplace bullying alone. Try and find out what support is available to you through your work and use things like Employee Assistance Services.

If you are a manager, check in with your teams regularly and be aware of any changes in behaviours or mental health challenges they may be facing.

Bullying at work is just as damaging as playground bullying. It can lead to low self-esteem, inability to concentrate at work, anxiety and a host of other mental health problems, not to mention the knock-on effect on career progression and income.  For the business, a bullying culture leads to reduced productivity, an erosion of worker loyalty through a toxic atmosphere and damage to brand and reputation. *


*Ben Cohen Foundation

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