Bad behaviour captured on camera is nothing new, but with more of us working online it may just create a new problem for employers to deal with.
Work-related misbehaviour of any type will always need to be addressed. That is no different if an act of misconduct is committed by an employee working remotely.
In recent months millions of employees have deserted the workplace to work from home. And current government advice is that employees should work from home where they can (1
It is now a way of working that may well become the norm. If not, it is something employees will need to get accustomed to for quite a while yet.
Google staff will reportedly work from home until at least July 2021.The company is the first to publicly commit to keeping its remote working policies in place well into next year (2
Other tech companies – including Facebook and Twitter – have committed to allow most employees to work remotely indefinitely, even after coronavirus-related shutdowns lift.
Employees across the world are now relying on video-conferencing apps such as Zoom and Teams to take part in meetings.
We even saw the Prime Minister Boris Johnson chairing a cabinet video conference on Zoom during the early days of lockdown (3
While virtual meetings may seem like a new way of working, in common with any other work setting, those taking part may not always be on their best behaviour.
A meeting participant may overstep the mark. Whether it is saying something offensive, displaying aggressive behaviour or behaving inappropriately, it can create a problem employers will have to deal with.
A survey of one thousand UK workers by EasyOffices revealed that nearly a quarter (22 per cent) of people have heard a colleague say something inappropriate during a conference call (4
). Those in HR had experienced this the most (47 per cent), closely followed by those in the arts and culture industries (44 per cent)
The study also found that employees of all ages reported that colleagues had made derogatory comments to them, with 31 per cent of workers aged 25-34 admitting it had happened to them.
Online working from home interactions with colleagues can blur the lines between a worker’s personal life and professional life.
Taking video conference calls in bed, sitting on the sofa or at the dining room table can mean an employee is too relaxed and not fully focused when they should be on their best behaviour while working.
Employees may let their guard down working with the comforts of home, but they should be aware that the same workplace etiquette and rules apply.
As with any act of misconduct in the real world, employers will need to deal with misconduct in the virtual world.
An investigation into such misconduct should be fair and reasonable and conducted in line with normal company policies and the ACAS Code of Practice.
As video calls become standard with a remote workforce, there remains a chance that inappropriate behaviour can still lead to an employee losing their job.
In recent months there have been a number of examples of employees who have landed in hot water for their unsuitable virtual work behaviour.
A politician in Spain offered to resign after accidentally broadcasting himself having a shower during a livestreamed council meeting (5
In the US a Northern California city planning commissioner resigned following a video conference meeting in which he was seen throwing his cat and drinking what appeared to be an alcoholic beverage (6
There is no harm in an employer reminding employees of their responsibilities when working from home. It can be a good idea to issue updated guidance to staff or have a working from home policy.
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