Discrimination and workplace bullying is a rising cause for concern in the UK, as the Covid-19 pandemic places the country on lockdown.
While those identified as ‘keyworkers’ have been told to continue going to work, there’s increasing concern over workplace bullying regardless as to where people are working at the moment, a British workplace legal company says.
UK-based health and safety software providers Protecting.co.uk knows that even in the face of the coronavirus people need to be treating each other with fairness and in both the physical and virtual workplace.
“We are all taught that bullying is wrong,” says company spokesperson Mark Hall, “but in times like these when we need to come together as a nation.
“Even if people are working from home, they need to be mindful that their colleagues could be facing all manner of personal problems. We need to look out for each other, not try and bring each other down.”
Is Coronavirus anxiety creating workplace paranoia?
Sickness in the workplace is not uncommon, but as strict guidelines are put into effect to reduce the impact of Covid-19, people are becoming hyper-aware of their co-workers’ health.
“I’ve heard many workplace horror stories since the coronavirus outbreak, of rumours being spread and increasing tensions between colleagues,” says Hall.
“People are stifling coughs to avoid bullying and harassment from colleagues, while others are feeling like they’re being avoided unnecessarily because of office hearsay.”
One key worker told us of the ridiculous paranoia in her place of work: “I’ve been allergic to the air freshener in the office for the last five years, but now everyone seems to be on high alert and has a huge problem with me when I sneeze.
“I know we have to socially distance from each other, but they are going out of their way to avoid being anywhere near me. I find it really rude, and I’m actually quite upset.”
She is not alone in this, as Protecting.co.uk recently conducted an informal survey into the workplace during the Covid-19 outbreak and found that half of the people feel that they have been treated unfairly by co-workers due to fears of spreading the illness.
“Coronavirus-induced anxiety is increasing daily due to constant exposure to news updates,” says Hall, “So it’s no surprise that people are becoming increasingly suspicious of everyone they see.
“What we need to do is to make sure that this doesn’t result in hostile working environments, as people just want to get their jobs done, whether that’s in an office or at home.”
“My colleagues are laughing at me for taking it too seriously”
It’s not just rumours of people bringing Covid-19 into the workplace, which is causing unease for Protecting.co.uk; it’s stories of those who are feeling humiliated by others for following the proper protocols during the outbreak.
“I’m currently working a job on a building site, and in the last few weeks we’ve been given more PPE to wear to protect ourselves at work,” a plasterer tells us.
“I’m quite happy to be wearing the new masks, I’ve got asthma and two young kids at home, but the boys on site have been laughing at me and calling me inappropriate names. I’m just following the rules, so why am I being treated like this?”
Company spokesman Mark Hall says that you should keep up-to-date with Government guidelines regarding working during the pandemic, to ensure that you and those around you are properly protected from the virus.
“People shouldn’t be ashamed to take extra precautions at the moment, and it is increasingly important that the problem of workplace bullying is taken seriously even in times such as these.”
Dealing with workplace bullying
Protecting.co.uk advises that there are plenty of steps you can take if you feel that you have been a victim of workplace bullying, such as distancing yourself from the perpetrators, getting advice from unions and making a complaint to your employer.
“Even if it’s just a few comments, workplace bullying can be a gradual build-up of incidents that can wear you down, so it’s important to keep a record of each occasion if you need to make a complaint,” says Hall.
“That way, whatever you decide to do, you have all the information you need to build a case.”
Hall adds: At the end of the day, it’s not anyone’s fault for falling ill, especially with coronavirus, so there’s no point being horrible to people and blaming them for it. People need to follow the words they were all preaching online in February before the outbreak.
“In a world where you can be anything – be kind.”