Getting your employees back to work safely and productively, while also avoiding the risk of damaging working relationships.
As organisations get back to work and start to embrace the “new normal”, there is inevitably going to be a significant level of workplace conflict. Social distancing and changes in work practices will eventually be embraced and normalised. For the time being, resulting disputes need to be managed productively and positively through the use of workplace mediation.
Drawing on the past 21 years of UK Mediation, we’ve put together this information hub to help your organisation navigate these challenging circumstances. Here, you’ll find free resources such as our webinars and blogs, as well as information on our external mediation services and most popular training courses.
And, of course, please do get in touch with the team if you have any questions or need any further advice.
Dr Mike Talbot, MA, MSc, D.Psych.
Learn more about Mike here
Sometimes it’s better to see things
Watch a free webinar on ‘Resolving Return to Work Conflict’ here…
Advice and guidance
Get back to work with Dr. Talbot’s Top Ten Tips!
Listen properly to people and show compassion. This has been a difficult period (and continues to be so for many) and people have been more impacted than they might let on. If people do need support, occupational health or your company’s Employee Assistance Programme may be a good point of referral.
Managers or team leaders should have a private one-to-one with all returning members of staff. This ought to be a two-way dialogue: not just to re-orient the worker and let them know what has changed in their place of work, but also to hear from them how they have been impacted by the last few months and what they might need from you.
Allow people to contribute to whatever changes need to be made in the workplace. People can be feeling disempowered and a little overwhelmed with it all after such a long time away from the office. Let them have a say in the new working arrangements, and be flexible; different or unusual can often mean better.
If there is any interpersonal tension in the office, don’t avoid the difficult or uncomfortable conversations that will inevitably be required. Pretending that, ‘Everything’s gonna be alright’ might have worked for Bob Marley but is a bad way to head off or address workplace disputes. Walk towards conflict with the intention of resolving it positively and productively.
Don’t kid yourself that your carefully thought-through post-lockdown plans for your team are either perfect or cast in stone. Take it a day or a week at a time and constantly take the temperature of the office dynamic: think of it as an ongoing conflict health-check. Trial and error will almost certainly be required in these unforeseen circumstances.
Be alert to potential resentments and grudges that are not getting addressed. Some people have been furloughed on 80% or 100% pay, while some people stayed at work and had an increased workload. What kind of conversations do these two group need to have? Look out for splits, rivalries, and in- and out-groups, and don’t let them fester.
You are likely to have set rules about social distancing, sanitising, etc. Enforce the rules fairly and consistently, but also give people a shared responsibility to monitor, apply, and feed back on how well the rules are working. Avoid setting up a parent-child atmosphere where you constantly tell people off while they try and constantly rebel.
Accept that you don’t have all the answers. On some issues of risk management or health and safety, you may need to take the role of enforcer or arbiter. But where interpersonal relationships are concerned, try and bring about conversations where people decide for themselves how to manage and resolve their own conflicts.
If you’re having a rota or ‘bubble’ system that restricts who will be working or mixing with whom, look out for how people interpret the way you have organised that. In the absence of a discussion for these arrangements, people will make up their own stories about how you have grouped people: your favourites, the ‘A’ team, those in line for redundancy, etc.
Accept that people are not going to be firing on all cylinders to begin with. Give them time to settle into the new regime and get back up to full speed. There will no doubt be obvious differences in performance between people who are returning from furlough and those who have remained at work since mid-March.
Train your teams to resolve disputes locally, informally, and without the need for outside intervention.
More and more forward-thinking organisations are training their teams in mediation skills to resolve disputes in-house.
When implemented correctly, and with the right training, disputes can be nipped in the bud before they start to worsen. This can save the organisation time and money, while also improving employee morale and productivity.
At UK Mediation, we’ve delivered training courses to hundreds of organisations across a wide variety of sectors. So, no matter the setting or application, we can provide your learners with the skills required to resolve exactly the sorts of disputes that they will face.
Delivered either in-person or online, all of our programmes contain live lecture-style teaching, practical case simulations, and active group discussions, and are facilitated by experienced trainers that are experts in their field.
With an in-house course, you can:
Below are some of our most popular in-house training courses:
Level 4 IMPC Qualification
Become an accredited mediator
Workplace Mediation Skills
Learn to facilitate resolution meetings
Manage challenging discussions
Manager as Mediator
Equip managers with mediation skills
Use our external mediation service to resolve return-to-work disputes within your organisation.
Most of the time, these issues can be sorted with a quick chat or through facilitated resolution meetings, either with HR or a manager.
When they can’t be resolved, however, external mediation services can provide a quick, cost-effective, and private method of resolving worsening disputes.
UK Mediation offers an unrivalled workplace mediation process, underpinned by our relational model of mediation, RE:TALK. Using some of the most accomplished and experienced mediators in the field, the process is expertly co-ordinated by our dedicated case managers.
We can provide a mediator within five days of receiving your referral, a mediation summary within 48 hours of the mediation day, and a follow-up with the participants six weeks later.
We offer a one-day workplace mediation process for up to four people, and team mediation spanning multiple days for disputes with more than four people.
Cases can also be delivered online with our virtual resolution model, RE:CONNECT. Cases can be facilitated over Zoom, Skype, or Microsoft Teams, and works in exactly the same way as face-to-face mediation.
How does the process work?
After getting in touch with UK Mediation, one of our case managers will send you a Mediation Referral Form. This needs to be filled out with details of the dispute and of the participants, and returned to us. A date can then be arranged for the mediation to take place.
On the day of the mediation, the mediator will speak with each party for approximately 1.5 hours. The purpose of these private meetings is to discuss the ongoing issues, as well as what is required – from their point of view – to end the dispute.
Getting parties together allows for a comprehensive airing of views and offers a chance to speak directly to one another. They can discuss how they believe they have arrived at the current situation, and to try and agree on how to improve their relationship. The meeting usually lasts about half a day.
The agreement is a joint plan of action decided upon by the participants. When an agreement is reached during the joint session, the mediator can offer to write this up and give it to the parties. The summary is a good faith agreement and is not binding in any way.
After the case is over, UK Mediation provides a summary report to the referrer, letting them know whether the mediation went ahead and whether it was successful. If parties consent, the referrer will also see the agreement points that the parties came up with.
The mediator will follow up the situation after an agreed period. This usually takes place via email and is intended to assess if the agreement is working and if any further input is needed from the mediator. This is then fed back to the referrer, providing consent is given to share.
See Mediation in Action!
Watch our ‘Workplace Mediation Online Showcase’ on demand…
Watch our ‘Online Mediation in Action’ webinar on demand…
Some other resources that might be of use…
ACAS – Coronavirus: advice for employers and employees
Advice, guidance, and templates for all manner of issues relating to COVID-19, updated regularly with the latest government advice.visit
CIPD – COVID-19: returning to the workplace
This guide will help you plan your organisation’s next steps as lockdown measures ease or following a period of furlough.visit
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