The experience of the last year has certainly been different and if lockdown has been a shock to the system, then we should expect that ‘returning’ to work is likely to be a similar shock. For some that might mean furlough turning into redundancy, for others it may mean either organisational changes or a difference in the way they work. With big changes will come uncertainty, the need for good communication, listening and empathy. However, I suspect that for whatever reason, not all of these will be deployed and in the worst circumstances none will be used. As a result there is likely to be an increase in disputes arising in the workplace.
During the lockdown working patterns have changed, and people have adapted to working online or in different circumstances in the workplace if remote working hasn’t been possible. In certain scenarios working from home has led to better engagement, more productivity and ironically better communication. It has also meant less time spent commuting, more flexibility for parents and a greater ability to attend meetings where there is a wide geographical spread of attendees. The challenge therefore will be how to move forward in a way which makes the most of the changes, that whilst moving to whatever new working arrangements are agreed.
The ideal of way of avoiding disputes around these issues will be for open conversations within the workplace. Organisations could perhaps try to understand the options for employees, and where possible take into account the positives that have arisen during Covid. Many organisations will have employees and leaders who have the skills of mediation and are able to deploy them into these discussions. For those who haven’t there are many mediators who are experienced in hosting such conversations and have experience in working with organisations.
Where disputes do arise it would certainly be worth considering the use mediation. The different dynamic which mediation can provide for such discussions has been used successfully in many workplaces over the years, creating different solutions, helping people to move on and repair relationships.
At Scottish Mediation we have a Register of mediators who have a range of different backgrounds and experiences that can help organisations. You can access them via our website using our Find a Mediator page or by using our Helpline 0131 556 8118. As we’re not yet back in the office we’d ask you to either email us on [email protected] or leave a message on the Helpline answerphone.
I know that in Scottish Mediation we are already having conversations about what working life is going to look like post Covid and I think it will be different from what it was previously. As Director I’ll be deploying my listening skills to make sure we don’t miss any opportunities.