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Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Oregon AFL-CIO Partners with Environmental Coalition to Strengthen Heat and Smoke Rules for Worker Safety

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Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (Oregon OSHA) released final draft rules and opened a comment period on rules to protect workers from excessive heat and wildfire smoke. Comments can be submitted now, and there will be public hearings between now and March 18. The Oregon AFL-CIO has teamed up with Pineros Y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Oregon Environmental Council, Northwest Workers’ Justice Project and Climate Jobs PDX to make sure the rules protect workers.

“We know that Oregon’s excessive heat and smoke problems will continue in the summer months, and workers must be protected,” said Graham Trainor (IBEW), president of the Oregon AFL-CIO. “Oregon’s unions are firmly committed to making sure Oregon OSHA creates the strongest rules possible so that outdoor or indoor workers who are exposed to excessive heat and wildfire smoke are protected as best as possible. The stakes are too high for anything less.”

Excessive heat and smoke from wildfires have been shown to harm a variety of workers, including farmworkers, warehouse workers, people who work at hazardous waste facilities, bus drivers and more.

This blog originally appeared at AFL-CIO on 2/28/2022.

About the Author: Kenneth Quinell is a Senior Writer at AFL-CIO.


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Here’s What’s in the New Bill Jointly Backed by Uber and the Teamsters in Washington State

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Uber’s lobbyists, after clinching an agreement with UFCW Canada to launch a charm offensive at the Ontario provincial government for employee-like benefits on behalf of an estimated 100,00 drivers, weren’t done hobnobbing with unions.

Next up, the Teamsters in Washington state are working on a deal with Uber and Lyft.

The legislation would give ride-hail workers new benefits—sick pay, a process to appeal deactivations, protections against retaliation, and workers’ compensation—in exchange for codifying their status as independent contractors rather than employees, and preempting cities from regulating the rideshare companies as Seattle has done.

Washington lawmakers passed the bill, HB 2076, backed by Teamsters Local 117,
with 55 yeas to 42 nays on February 23. The Senate will hold a public hearing February 26.

“HB 2076 exemplifies Washington State’s spirit of leadership and innovation,” Teamsters Local 117 Vice President Brenda Wiest wrote to House representatives February 22 in an email obtained by Labor Notes. “This bill is supported by both Uber and Lyft, as well as the Teamsters, their affiliated Drivers Union, and dozens of labor and community-based organizations across the state. Moreover, it is backed by the people who matter most—the drivers themselves.”

The Teamsters international declined to comment on the legislation.

FLASHPOINT OF DEBATE

It’s a flashpoint of debate in the labor movement: should unions keep fighting for employee status for gig workers, or cut a deal to head off worse odds down the road? After all, unions and drivers are squaring off against Uber and Lyft, who with their bottomless pits of cash forced their way in California in a 2020 ballot initiative, Prop 22.

The companies have made explicit the threat that, if they don’t get this legislative compromise, they will pursue a ballot initiative in Washington. Lyft has put $2 million into a newly formed political action committee Washington Coalition for Independent Work with clones in New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts. It also has the backing of Instacart, DoorDash, and Uber, which have committed to contribute to the PAC.

What’s curious about this bill is that it has the backing of Teamsters Local 117 and its affiliate Drivers Union, which previously supported efforts to boost gig worker protections. Drivers Union members said the rationale for throwing their support behind a legislative deal with Uber and Lyft is the ballot initiative threat.

“They’re also holding the gun at our heads with the possibility of an initiative,” said Don Creery, 68, a ridehail driver since 2013 and a board member of the Drivers Union. “They spent $200 million on California. It comes down to the reality that we don’t have the money to buy TV ads. They do. They will misinform the public with a barrage of TV ads, so we will lose an initiative. We could lose everything.”

Jake Laundry, 29, has been an Uber driver since 2015; he is a member of both the Drivers Union and IATSE Local 15, where he is an audiovisual worker. He considers himself a Teamster and didn’t want to say anything that would jeopardize the union. But he’s heard that pitch about the initiative threat too many times. Laundry views this bill as making “a deal with the devil.”

“It’s great you have a wage floor and then will improve wage conditions in outlying areas [outside] of Seattle,” he said. “But this contractor relationship also locks in a sort of technocratic feudalism.”

Creery has no qualms with contractor status. “I’m not really concerned about us not being designated as employees,” he said. “In our union, we abandoned that seven years ago, eight years ago. We can be independent contractors and get rights. These are laws that can be changed by us, and we did.”

The Drivers Union’s biggest victories, though, were won at the city of Seattle—and this bill would put an end to that by reserving the regulation of rideshare companies to the state.

“Now you’re just kind of at the whim of the state legislature, which swings really moderate,” Laundry said. “Here in Washington, we have crazy secessionists that want a holy war. We’re not gonna get any labor victories out of them.”

PAY RAISES

What Creery feels “conflicted” about is the pay raises in the bill. “If you’re a Tacoma driver, it’s really outstanding pay rates,” he said. Currently, “once you leave Seattle city limits, our pay drops by 40 percent.” Drivers in Tacoma, who now get 80 cents a mile, would increase to $1.17.

Waiting time and travel miles without a passenger in the car would be uncompensated, though, and the base fare would be between $3 and $5.17 per trip. “To pay one of us $3 is class warfare,” said Creery.

The bill establishes two tiers of pay. For trips originating in cities with more than 600,000 people (Seattle), the rate would be $1.38 per mile driven with a passenger in the car and 59 cents per minute. Those figures are based on Seattle’s Fair Pay Law, which took effect January 1, 2022. Elsewhere, the rate would be $1.17 per passenger mile and 34 cents a minute.

Yearly pay increases based on the cost of living would begin September 30, 2022.

Mohamed Diallo, 33, has been driving for Lyft and Uber since 2017. He’s in favor of the legislation because his rent in Kent has skyrocketed. He also wants to extend the benefits like sick pay and the right to contest deactivations through an appeals process beyond Seattle to Kent and other parts of Washington state.

He said other drivers from his native Guinea are also in favor of the bill, describing it as “wonderful news.”

“Last year, my two-bedroom used to be $1,500,” Diallo said. “Today I talked to my leasing office because my lease is going to be over and I have to sign a new one. It’s $2,030.” He also feels the financial strain at the gas pump; he’s averaging $180-$200 to fill the tank of his Toyota Highlander SUV. He says the new legislation will increase his average earnings from about 90 cents per mile in Kent to $1.17, and spare him the commute into Seattle where the rates are higher.

Diallo works six days a week, 12-hour shifts, with only Tuesdays off. He has two young children, a boy of six months and a two-year-old girl. “The most important thing about the bill is I will get more money to put food on the table,” he said.

Uber touts “flexibility” as a perk it offers to drivers. But “I don’t think flexibility is as important for the guys with the Teamsters,” said Laundry, who connected me with Diallo. “They’re driving 70, 80 hours a week. They’re just scrambling to support their families. They’re working their tails off, so they don’t really have a flexible life.”

THE BEST WE CAN GET?

Why would any union agree to be involved in these compromise bills? The argument goes that we’re not going to win on employee status, plus there are innumerable hurdles to organizing gig workers at scale… so creating a third category, an independent contractor with at least some labor rights, is the best deal the labor movement can get.

Nicole Moore from Rideshare Drivers United in California finds a contradiction in that position. “There’s more demand for unions, a better minimum wage, and labor rights,” she said. “Compromise is absolutely the wrong direction. This is not to say we can’t get legislation on the road to employee status—but not at the cost of our labor rights.”

The app-based companies and their labor collaborators tout the notion of creating “portable benefits” that follow you from gig to gig. But “labor rights are portable benefits,” Moore said. “I have my rights to unemployment. If I get hurt on the job, I have portable benefits to workers’ compensation. Anything other than that is taking some people completely out of the picture.”

For Moore, the defeatist attitude that employee status isn’t winnable harks back to the National Labor Relations Act’s exclusion of agricultural and domestic workers. Like those workforces, the gig workforce is largely people of color and immigrants.

A personal vehicle makes for a very isolated and lonely workplace, which is why most gig workers’ organizing kicks off online. “We know each other in the parking lot of the airports,” Moore said. “We know each other online, because we find Facebook pages and Reddit in order to share information and understand. We are ready to organize.”

DEVIL IN THE DETAILS

In the breezy language of Wiest’s email to state representatives, the benefits of the deal appear excellent. But not all that shines is gold. It can be a spear.

One of the sharpest daggers in the bill is preemption—giving the state government the exclusive power to regulate rideshare companies, so that Seattle could no longer enact wage increases or new rules about drivers’ working conditions.

“The Teamsters-affiliated Drivers Union has already won the nation’s leading labor standards for Uber and Lyft drivers at the local level in Seattle,” said Kerry Harwin, communications director for the Drivers Union, in a statement to Labor Notes. “Seattle’s first-in-the-nation protections have demonstrated a meaningful impact for Uber and Lyft drivers, who enjoy the highest minimum wage in the country, the nation’s first paid-sick days for gig workers during the pandemic, and the country’s only legal protections against unfair deactivations.”

Seattle’s City Council passed the Gig Worker Paid Sick and Safe Time ordinance, backed by Teamsters Local 117, in June 2020. Since then the city’s Office of Labor Standards has reached a $3.4 million settlement for violation of the policy with Uber and a $1 million settlement with the online food delivery company PostMates. It also reached a $350,000 settlement with DoorDash and PostMates in violation of a pandemic-related hazard pay law for food delivery workers; each company had to pay restitution to about 3,000 workers.

In September 2020, Seattle hiked the minimum wage for Uber and Lyft drivers to $16.39 per hour (it’s now $17.27) and required the ridehail companies to pay drivers at least 56 cents per minute drivers are traveling to pick up a passenger or carrying one; it also covers driver expenses.

For Uber and Lyft, this combination of a progressive city council and workers organizing was too much. Their business model depends on misclassification, and on state government footing the bill for benefits that employers are traditionally on the hook to provide. So they went to the legislature.

NO BENEFITS DURING ROVING TIME

In the email to state representatives, Wiest said the bill would provide rideshare drivers with workers’ compensation under the “same robust state-run program that protects employees in Washington State.”

But in fact, workers’ comp would only be in effect when a driver is on the way to pick up a passenger or actually has a passenger in the car; the legislation describes these activities as “dispatch platform time” and “passenger platform time” respectively.

This leaves workers vulnerable if they get injured between fares, while they are roving and awaiting a new trip request. A 2020 UC Berkeley Institute for Research on Labor and Employment study estimated this cruising without a passenger is 35 percent of their work time. This method is also used to calculate the premiums that Lyft and Uber will pay into state coffers for workers’ comp.

Weist championed the paid sick protections, which she said would be “at the same accrual rates for all workers.”

But paid sick leave would not accrue at the same rates for independent contractors as it does for employees. Again, it would exclude the time drivers are waiting for passengers, and in this case also the time they drive to fetch them after being pinged for a trip. Drivers would only earn paid sick time when a passenger is in the car, which the same study estimated to be roughly 53 percent of their work time. As a result, drivers will have to work twice as long as other workers to qualify for the same amount of time off.

“We are frontline workers—providing trips to nurses and other essential workers during the pandemic,” said Ahmed Farah, a Drivers Union member who has driven for Uber and Lyft since 2016, in an emailed statement. “As a father of three, paid sick days is a very important protection when my kids get sick.”

Drivers would be eligible for unpaid sick leave after working for 90 days for a ridehail app.

Paid family leave was included in an earlier draft of the bill, but was scrapped from the final legislation. Weist’s email doesn’t mention the change, but Drivers Union staff continue promoting the idea that it is in the current bill.

Unemployment insurance will be studied by a “work group of stakeholders” drawn from labor and the gig industry with the deadline of producing a report by December 1, 2022.

‘DRIVER RESOURCE CENTER’

Protection from retaliation and an appeals process to negotiate driver deactivations are critically important for drivers. How would the legislation address this? It would provide a direct line of funding for the Drivers Union, which presumably meets the criteria in the legislation to serve as a “driver resource center.” (It may be the only group to qualify, since the bill says such a group must be able to demonstrate that it has past experience representing rideshare drivers and “providing culturally competent driver representation services.”)

A driver resource center’s services will be paid through a 15-cent per-trip surcharge on riders, with dues membership modeled after the Independent Drivers’ Guild (IDG) in New York City, a Machinists-affiliated company union of Lyft and Uber drivers that receives an undisclosed amount of funding from both companies.

And what would it do? The legislation makes scant mention of what services drivers would receive from the resource center. Asked about that, Harwin, the spokesperson for the Drivers Union, didn’t elaborate much: “It will provide support services to drivers, including representation” when faced with a deactivation.

??The state treasury would oversee the fund. The state director of the Department of Labor would choose the driver resource center through what the bill describes as a “competitive process.” Workers won’t have a say in choosing the non-profit organization, nor in how the money is spent.

The legislation also says the “driver resource center may not be funded, excessively influenced, or controlled by a transportation network company.”

Joe DeManuelle-Hall wrote last year when a similar draft legislation was floated in New York that at a 10-cent surcharge, a similar resource center would have netted $75,000 per day—a staggering $27.5 million per year, based on a calculation of 750,000 rides daily in New York City shortly before the pandemic.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

The idea of bringing an IDG-like deal to the West Coast can be traced back to disgraced ex-Teamsters leader Rome Aloise.

Aloise, once a vice president of the international union, was eventually found guilty of taking gifts from employers, negotiating a sham contract, and using union resources to rig a local union election—and then of running Local 853 and Northern California’s Joint Council 7 while he was suspended from the union for these offenses. He has been “permanently barred from the Teamsters” and “permanently enjoined from participating in union affairs” effective January 31, 2022.

But back in 2018, Aloise was still in power and trying to cut a deal with Lyft and Uber. Among the many exhibits and court documents compiled when he was brought up on internal union charges were various emails from that fall discussing plans (never realized) to create employer-linked driver guilds in Seattle and San Francisco.

Aloise proposed that Seattle’s Teamsters Local 117 and the Workers Benefit Fund, which has ties to Uber and Lyft, should jointly “support the creation of legislation and a guild infrastructure for Seattle Drivers.” In a document shared with WBF CEO Benjamin Geyerhahn, Aloise wrote: “WBF will provide with [sic] polling, legislative support, legal support, its expertise and its relationships with Uber and Lyft. This support includes financial support for these items carrying through until legislation is passed. In exchange, it receives the Teamsters full support and exclusive right to provide benefits to the Seattle drivers…”

In a revealing email to a few other California Teamsters leaders on November 21, 2018, Aloise wrote: “Maybe it is worth talking about setting up a Driver’s Guild in SF, and then of course expanding it at a later date… In NY, a lot of money is pouring into the Guild and back to the Machinists who were behind the establishment of the Guild.”

One year later, he wrote on February 1, 2019: “[Local] 117 heavily involved and substantial negotiations this coming week with both companies. The issue, of course, is how to stop any legislation which would give our core industries any loop hole [sic] to move into this TNC [Transportation Network Company] type model, while allowing Lyft and Uber to operate with some type of meaningful representation for the drivers.”

In 2018, he exchanged emails with former Service Employees president Andy Stern about the need to protect “core industries” for the Teamsters– package delivery and freight transportation– in order to enter into an agreement with Uber. “For any of this to get any traction in California, it will need to have some language about staying out of certain functions, which are core industries to the Teamsters, i.e.; such as package delivery, freight transportation, etc. If there is to be a carve out of their ‘industry,’ this will be essential, and perhaps a model for the other companies to deal with the ramifications of the Dynamix decision.” (At the time, the state’s Supreme Court in its Dynamix decision ruled against misclassification, creating a framework for standards to determine employee status.)

Last-mile transportation and delivery has gigified rapidly since 2018. Think: Uber Freight and Uber Eats. In September of 2020, United Parcel acquired Roadie, a crowd-sourced, same-day delivery company. FedEx bought Shoprunner. Amazon, Walmart, and Target have adopted and expanded their speedy gig-delivery business models to everything from yoga pants and furniture to pet food.

“Online competitors are shipping it from a distribution center going across multiple zones where we’re taking it in the back of a DoorDasher’s car for the same cost as if it was a tennis ball, delivering it the same day, and delivering it at lower cost,” said Petco CEO Ron Coughlin in a March 2021 interview.

What’s to protect UPS Teamsters from their work shifting to Roadie?

Update: this article has been updated to clarify that paid family and medical leave aren’t included in the current bill. But Weist and Drivers Union staff continue to promote the perks of the bill with those as included benefits. It has also been updated to reflect what the passage of the bill would mean for Teamsters in freight and transportation. —Editors

This blog originally appeared at Labor Notes on February 25, 2022

About the Author: Luis Feliz Leon is a staff writer and organizer with Labor Notes.


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Sanitation Workers Win Raise After Going on Strike—With Community Support

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CHULA VISTA, CALIF.—“Who are we?” Teamsters! ?“What do we want?” Contract! ?“When do we want it?” Now!

The sanitation workers of Teamsters Local 542 were still in good voice three weeks into their strike, which began Dec. 17, 2021, even as Republic Services started bringing in nonunion out-of-staters as garbage piled up. Republic had refused the Teamsters’ demands for so long that the city of Chula Vista declared a public health emergency because of the amount of uncollected refuse.

Close to 300 workers, many of them Latino or Black, were on strike across three different San Diego County locations. ?“We want to go back to work,” said Chula Vista picketer Ladere Hampton, ?“so that we can clean up the city.”

Workers were demanding wage increases and new trucks (barring improved maintenance on the existing vehicles), saying their equipment was poorly maintained and could create a health hazard?—?especially to the children who often greet them on their routes.

“You don’t want to be driving down the street and you’ve got trash juices flying off your wheels, especially if you pull up to a customer’s house,” Hampton said. ?“And that’s happening.”

Workers also cited long hours as a point of contention. Many drivers work 11-hour days and six-day weeks, servicing more than 1,000 homes per route.

The picket line held back the ?“Blue Crew”?—?Republic’s term for the replacement workers, flown in from around the country?—?for a few minutes before letting them through to the facility’s driveway. As the Republic trucks sat waiting, Hampton pointed out how filthy they were?—?they’re normally cleaned weekly. He also held up a picture of a truck that arrived with a bin hanging off the side, a clear safety hazard.

“[Republic is] paying all this money to bring in a crew to try to do our job,” Hampton said. ?“And they’re not doing such a good job.”

The Republic media relations office told In These Times: ?“Safety is our number one priority at Republic Services. … Our Blue Crew relief team is made up of elite Republic Services drivers, technicians, and supervisors from around the country, and we’re grateful for their support in taking care of our customers in the San Diego area.”

The San Diego strike followed a similar dispute between Teamsters and Republic in December 2021 in Orange County, Calif., which concluded after seven days. It may not be the last. Republic is the second-largest trash collection company in the United States, with facilities in more than 40 states; the Teamsters represent more than 7,000 Republic workers, with contracts all over the nation up for renegotiation this year. And despite dragging its feet on wage increases for workers, Republic paid its CEO more than $12 million in 2020.

Even with nationwide support, the strike wasn’t easy on the workers, especially during the holiday season. Next to the picket line was a tent with a small box for donations. ?“If there’s anybody that needs some help, we’re willing to give them the box with the money, and hopefully that helps them so that they can stay out here,” Hampton explained.

He said the strikers had also experienced an outpouring of solidarity from the community. A couple of nights prior, two trucks had come through with ?“bags of groceries… for each [striking] driver,” he said.

As we talked, someone shouts ?“cliente” and the picket line splits to allow customers to enter the facility and drop off their own trash. The driver honks and waves.

Hampton pulls out his phone to find a picture. ?“You know, we’ve had a lady come out here and bring her kids out here because they knew?—?the kids knew?—?what was going on and they wanted to come out here and support us,” he says. In the photo, dozens of yellow-vested Teamsters smile and crouch down to share the frame with a small child holding a picket sign.

The Teamsters accepted an offer from Republic on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 17. The new contract includes wage increases and some healthcare benefits, but falls short of what the striking workers wanted.

“The new pay rates I believe are $26.90 [hourly], and before the strike, we were at $25 flat,” according to worker Dohney Castillo. Workers will also receive wage increases in 2023, 2024 and 2025, Castillo says.

“This was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Rafael Mejia, a worker at Republic, says in a statement published on the Teamsters’ website.

“We are fighting for dignity and respect on the job, but we also know that the strike has been affecting our communities and our neighbors and our own families. This contract isn’t everything we believe we deserve, but it’s enough to go back to work and go back to taking care of our communities.”

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on February 17, 2022

About the Author: James Stout is a freelance writer, published with numerous media outlets.


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How Workers Can Leverage “The Great Resignation”

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We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic changed our lives in myriad ways. But now that we are truly beginning to adjust to the new post-pandemic normal, many workers are realizing that not every pandemic-related change was bad. 

In fact, many have realized that their work lives before the outbreak simply weren’t working for them. And they’ve also realized that, yes, it can be possible to reimagine and reinvent how you earn your living. Thus, the “Great Resignation” era was born, presenting powerful new opportunities to leverage this unique moment in history to help build the work life of their dreams. But what can workers do to make the most of the “Great Resignation”?

What is “The Great Resignation” and Why Does It Matter?

Economists, business owners, and workers alike have been noticing the drastic surge in employee turnover in the previous year and, for a time, many were apt to attribute the phenomenon to COVID. But now that the world is beginning to emerge from the shadow of the pandemic, Americans continue to leave their jobs at a record pace. 

Some leave to seek new and better opportunities elsewhere, no longer willing to sacrifice great benefits or a satisfying work-life balance for the sake of job security. Others want to take the leap into business ownership for themselves. Whatever the individual reason, the net result is the same: Employers are desperate to keep the workers they have and to recruit new talent to fill the ever-widening labor gap. That means that, as a worker, now more than ever, the ball is in your court.

Harness the Power of Competition

Competition can be great for business, spurring innovation and compelling companies to be the best they can be. But in today’s extremely tight labor market, competition can also be highly beneficial for workers. 

In fact, if you want to turn the Resignation economy to your advantage as an employee, then one of the best things you can do is to understand your present or prospective employer’s competition and how your talents must be put to use with them. This insight can serve as a powerful bargaining chip in an environment in which talent is formidably difficult to recruit and retain. 

So understand exactly what your skills set is and how it can benefit your prospective or current employer — or their rival! By ensuring that your employer knows what value you bring, and by demonstrating that you understand your value to them as well, you not only make it nearly impossible for them to exploit you and your labors, but you also increase the likelihood that you’ll succeed in negotiating the perks and benefits you want! 

Consider Joining the Bandwagon

Let’s face it: It’s a jobseeker’s market out there. And if you truly want to make the most of this moment in time, then you should be willing to walk away when a job doesn’t serve you. 

For instance, if you’ve been negotiating a pay raise and you recognize that an employer simply isn’t willing to compensate you fairly for the value you bring to the company, then now may be the best moment to cut ties and go elsewhere. 

But of course, such a step isn’t without risk, even during the Great Resignation, so it’s important to do your homework and get prepared before jumping on the quitting bandwagon. Whether or not you have another gig already lined up, you need to make sure that your financial house is in order before resigning or changing jobs. 

At the very least, you’ll want to adjust your budget and increase your savings for the near term. And if you have health benefits or other perks, go ahead and use them up before leaving. This will help ensure you’re well-positioned for the transition into the new job or that you have a cozy nest egg if you’re job hunting or starting your own business.

This blog is printed with permission.

About the Author: Dan Matthews is a writer, content consultant, and conservationist. While Dan writes on a variety of topics, he loves to focus on the topics that look inward on mankind that help to make the surrounding world a better place to reside. When Dan isn’t working on new content, you can find him with a coffee cup in one hand and searching for new music in the other.


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3 Ways Employers Can Support Worker’s Mental Health When Working Remotely

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As millions of people around the world have discovered in recent years, working remotely can pose all sorts of challenges in both our professional and personal lives. Not only have workers had to contend with a new schedule and environment, but also the mental health impacts that have arisen as a result of this alien approach to working. In fact, one guide revealed that 82% of remote employees suffered some symptoms of burnout whilst working remotely. 

While there are many things individuals can do to help keep on top of their mental wellbeing, employers can also play their part in supporting their workforce, even when that workforce is operating remotely. 

In general, companies are looking to do their bit to support the wellbeing of their employees. Research shows that 96% of employers have actively adapted HR policies in recent years to provide more mental health resources for their staff. But, only one in six people felt fully supported by these measures. 

So, what more can management do to better support their employees?

Establish effective communication channels 

With hallway meetings and water cooler catch-ups no longer a feature of day-to-day office life, it has become easier for employees to feel alienated from the company. Perhaps it’s unclear what is being expected of them, or maybe it’s just the lack of face-to-face interaction that causes this feeling. 

As an employer, it is important to establish and maintain healthy channels of communication. When working from home, this can be achieved through regular video calls and meetings, or simply through instant messaging apps. If possible, schedule in regular catch-ups which give employees the opportunity to talk about anything else but work, giving them a chance to switch off from professional duties with their peers. 

Keeping in touch with the wider team will help to create a feeling of inclusion and give employees a greater sense of purpose and direction when completing their daily tasks. 

Organize regular social events 

Spontaneous after-work drinks and  similar  activities were removed from our routines in the midst of the pandemic but with the leisure and hospitality sector up and running once more, scheduling regular out-of-work social events can be invaluable to not only individuals’ mental health, but also the team morale as a whole. 

If lots of your staff live close by to one another, why not suggest starting a walking group to get people out and about and mingling once again on a regular basis? Exercise-based incentives will not only help to reduce feelings of isolation, but it will also fight against other mental health issues, with exercise proven to boost your mood and alleviate feelings of depression. 

Consider individual’s needs when working from home  

When the entire workforce is operating from the office, everyone will stick to similar working routines and have similar needs throughout the day. However, when working from home, different factors and commitments will make it more difficult to enforce rigid policies which may not take into account every individual’s needs. 

It could be a case of allowing for flexible start and finish times for remote staff, or simply being mindful that homelife can get in the way during the work day. 

What’s more, when working in an office environment, all of the necessary equipment needed to carry out professional duties will likely be available within the office. This may not be the case for everybody when working from home, so it can be valuable to implement a work from home budget, which will help staff to feel more comfortable and also aid productivity in the process. 

All in all, it’s important to consider the needs and mindsets of workers during such an unprecedented time in history. With small changes like the ones mentioned above, your team could thrive more than ever before, while deepening their interest and commitment to their role and a company that has their back.

This blog is printed with permission.

About the Author: I am a freelance writer with a particular interest in employee welfare, and have created content for established companies based all around the world. I have a degree in creative writing, and am always eager to expand my knowledge around different subjects.


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A Guide to Workplace Bullying

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Michael Metcalf, Author

Bullying is an all-too-common workplace issue. And if reports are correct, it seems to be on the rise.

Workplace bullying is one of the most damaging issues for any organization, as it can affect employee productivity, financial performance, and brand strength. On top of that, there’s no moral justification for letting it happen.

Employees deserve to work in comfortable environments of psychological safety. They should be able to relax, be themselves, and collaborate with others without fear or emotional upset.

Workplace Bullying Statistics in 2021

  • 1 in 4 UK workers have been bullied at work. The same amount also reported feeling left out in the workplace too.
  • One survey of 3,000 American adults found that workers across the age, gender, and education spectrum experience high levels of hostile behaviors at work.
  • 37% of Australian workers report having been cursed or yelled at in the workplace.
  • 1 in 5 American workers have been subjected to some form of verbal abuse, unwanted sexual attention, threats, or humiliating behavior at work.
  • 1 in 8 American workers have experienced direct verbal abuse or threats.
  • 8% of women aged 25-34 report having had unwanted sexual attention in the workplace during the last month.
  • Men aged 25-34 without a college degree report the highest levels of bullying, with 35% having experienced bullying at least once recently.
  • 1 out of 5 students in the US report being bullied, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
  • Workplace bullying is estimated to cost Australian businesses more than $6bn per year.

Why is it important to deal with workplace bullying?

It’s fairly easy to understand why this is important. Bullying is a workplace issue that can have tons of negative impacts on employees, management, company culture, and overall productivity.

If bullying becomes widespread enough, stories can leak out to the public and damage your brand – nobody wants to do business with a company of bullies, and not many people want to work in a place where bullies can get away with it.

Workplace bullying can have mild to severe impacts on victims, including:

  • low morale/loss of motivation
  • inability to concentrate or complete tasks
  • lowered productivity
  • social anxiety and avoiding people
  • anxiety and depression
  • stress, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and other mental health issues
  • reduced confidence and self-esteem
  • sleep problems
  • other consequences of stress like digestive issues and a weakened immune system
  • more frequent absences from work because of the above issues

If it’s obvious that one person is a bully, others might alter their behavior to avoid their attention. They might be reluctant to do anything distinctive that makes them stand out, or they could shy away in situations that require collaborative creativity. And even when bullies are dealt with by management, there’s a loss of productivity while they have to go through disciplinary procedures, maybe even getting suspended too.

Bullying can cause trust issues within your teams, too; not just directly between the bully and the bullied employee, but across the organization, fostering a culture of secrecy, gossip, and paranoia if left unchecked.

There’s also a measurable financial cost to bullying. If staff leave due to being bullied, there are the obvious costs of replacing them and training new staff. But there’s also the possibility of dealing with costly legal action if things get to a certain point, too. And higher incidences of sick leave and lower productivity will have a financial impact, as well.

No matter how competitive and high-pressure your work culture is, when positive aggression tips over into harmful bullying, you have to act quickly and decisively to stamp it out.

What should I do if I’m being bullied at work?

The first thing to do if you’re wondering how to deal with bullying at work is to tell someone about it.

It’s not always easy to do, of course. You might have a more reserved personality type, or you could have had a bad experience in the past when trusting someone with a personal problem.

But talking is almost always your best starting point, whether it’s with your line manager, a colleague, a close friend, or a family member. Getting it out of your head means you’re under less of a mental burden keeping it a secret, and talking it through will make you feel better. What’s more, you might end up getting some great advice on how to deal with the situation.

It’s also important to keep records of everything. Bullies can spread their deeds out into multiple small-scale transgressions, which individually, don’t seem much. It’s hard to complain about little things without feeling a bit silly – which is the reaction they’re looking for.

But if you note down details of each occurrence, you can build up a timeline that clearly illustrates a campaign of workplace harassment over time. You can take a report like this to management, presenting irrefutable evidence that you’re being victimized. If it’s noticeably affecting your job performance, any competent manager will want to intervene straight away.

Another option is to be proactive and confront the bully yourself – fight your corner.

You might think back to a parent telling you to “stand up for yourself” in the school playground when someone was bullying you – it’s easier said than done. Or how about “just ignore them” – well-meaning advice that’s nigh on impossible to follow when somebody really has it out for you. But if management isn’t being especially helpful, it might turn out to be the most effective strategy.

Instead of going in all guns blazing, you could take a less confrontational route.

You could try letting the bully know how their words or actions made you feel. They’ll already have a good idea, of course, if their actions are intentional, but by putting it all out there, it might cause a wave of guilt causing them to stop.

Try to figure out why they have a problem with you. Offer to lay it all out on the table, apologize for anything you might have done to upset them, and clear the air. This strategy won’t work for every situation and does take a bit of bravery, but it might be the quickest, most effective way to solve your bully problem. You might even end up becoming friends with them.

What are the signs that someone is being bullied at work?

There’s a bunch of different bullying at work signs that you should look out for. When coworkers are having problems with a bully, they might be reluctant to bring attention to it. So here are some of the signs to look out for:

  • They’re absent from work more often
  • They seem dissatisfied, downbeat, and unmotivated
  • They’re not performing so well at their job
  • They make excuses for avoiding work-related social events
  • You hear others gossiping about them

You might see one of these signs on its own, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being bullied. There might be a perfectly reasonable explanation.

But if you start noticing a couple of these signs together, something is probably going wrong for your coworker behind the scenes. Reach out, talk to them, and offer to help.

Final thoughts

Bullying and harassment in the workplace is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Certain social movements from the 2010s onwards have given more people the confidence to speak up when they witness injustice in their organization, but there’s still a long way to go.

Tackling bullying takes a combined effort from coworkers and management. Workers need to be supported both with the presence of official procedures and the confidence that their complaints will be taken seriously.

If workplace bullying goes unchecked, the negative effects on employees, management, and the public reputation of the company can be enormous – so it’s something to deal with swiftly and judiciously.

Read the full article here.

This blog was printed with permission.

About the Author: Michael is a passionate writer and has written for other major publishing sites such as Trello, Unilever, and Timetastic. At F4S, he writes research-based articles and guides covering leadership, management, and everything involving workplace wellness.


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