According to the CBI, workplace conflict costs UK businesses £33 billion per year. That is a cost that UK businesses could never afford, but in the devastating year that has been 2020 so far, it is even more horrifying, writes Dorcas Crawford, Senior Partner at Edwards & Co. Solicitors and Founder of The Better Way
As we move towards the easing of lockdown and people start to think about returning to the workplace in some form, whether coming back physically, returning from furlough, or simply engaging more with colleagues as things get busier again, there is a wide range of mixed feelings – some people can’t wait, some are dreading it, some are ambivalent, but one thing is for certain – work-life has changed and will continue to change for everyone.
And what do we know about change? We know that it is one of the greatest triggers for conflict.
The challenge for employers will be to manage all of those issues and ensure that they don’t derail a return to business that is so crucial in the coming months.
It is all too easy to brush aside these kind of concerns in the overwhelming challenge of getting ‘back to business’, but the forward-thinking employer will not underestimate the potential for things to go wrong – they will plan and prepare for the potential for conflict before it becomes a costly problem.
One of the greatest criticisms of Government in dealing with the pandemic is lack of preparedness, the crisis over PPE being at the top of the list. The good news is that it is easy to prepare for potential workplace conflict post-COVID and for that forward-thinking employer to provide everyone with the PPE required to keep them safe by managing conflict.
What does that PPE look like? I’ve already been approached by some of the companies I’ve worked with in the past who want to ensure as smooth a transition period as possible. I’m providing them with both online and in-person (where space allows it to be done safely) guidance and facilitation to ensure a workplace culture where communication is at its best, fears and concerns are heard, input from staff is encouraged and teams pull together to face potential problems and find solutions. It can be as simple as a half day, highly interactive, team session, or a full day for larger teams.
Remember that staff on furlough are permitted to take part in training, so it can easily be done at any stage in preparation for their return.
It is not only possible, but it is absolutely crucial for both morale and turnover, that employers address this issue and manage conflict before it manages their organisation.