In parallel with the spread of Coronavirus around the world, we have also seen a spread in workplace discrimination. This is primarily targeted at people of Asian appearance and as such is race-related but there are also reports of discrimination against people who have contracted the virus or displayed symptoms of illness.
Institutions in the US and UK are calling for employers to take measures to reduce discrimination and workplace bullying with regards to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Director General at the WHO (World Health Organization) has condemned any form of discrimination with regards to the pandemic.
Given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, the shift to a remote workforce for some sectors is likely to lead to a number of challenges with regards to interpersonal conduct:
- Crossed wires: digital communication channels open up the possibility of misunderstanding and miscommunication, which may aggravate existing tensions in the workplace and create a “them and us” culture. At Vault Platform, we believe that creating a culture that encourages people to speak up serves to strengthen trust and accountability between employer and employee.
- Digital discrimination: a recent Totaljobs survey found that 30% of UK workers have been victims of discrimination via internal communication channels such as Slack, Microsoft Teams or Google Hangouts. Recently, the CEO of luggage brand Away stepped down following allegations of bullying an employee on Slack. Vault Platform provides a safe and secure channel for employees to voice concerns about harassment, discrimination, and bullying, with reporting options supporting anonymity as well as safety in numbers.
- Lack of internal support infrastructure: a remote-first workforce may find internal support lacking on sensitive issues they face within the workplace. This may deepen the burden of mental health conditions and cause employees to seek alternative and often external outlets for their concerns such as social media. This may also lead to a greater turnover rate as issues gain a life of their own on external promotion platforms. Vault Platform is designed to help employers resolve issues internally before they become a problem by reducing the friction with internal reporting.
As COVID-19 displaces the workforce, transparency is a greater concern than ever and enterprises will need to focus on capturing and resolving interpersonal concerns within the workplace quickly and efficiently.
Neta Meidav is co-founder and CEO of Vault Platform, the trusttech company disrupting workplace misconduct reporting and resolution. Neta worked as a senior adviser to the UK Government for over ten years and is a knowledgeable resource on solutions to the problem of harassment and bullying in the workplace.