28 April 2022

Canberra staff conflicted about office return post-lockdown

| Katrina Condie
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Staff working in modern office.

Some people are finding it tough to re-adjust to their pre-COVID working lives. Photo: File.

For some, returning to the office isn’t all fun and games.

As we attempt to settle back into our nine-to-five desk jobs, many Canberra employees are feeling burnt-out, while others are looking for alternate work that offers the flexibility they’ve become accustomed to during lockdown.

Conflict Resolution Service (CRS) CEO Mel Haley said the easing of COVID-19 restrictions had resulted in a new wave of problems in the workplace.

While working from home has its advantages – flexible hours and staff meetings in casual clothes – some employees find it heightens anxiety because of poor communication and even online bullying often brushed under the carpet.

Mel said many of those lockdown tensions were now starting to come to a head.


READ ALSO: Early intervention crucial to resolving conflict in the workplace


“We have received a lot of enquiries regarding conflict situations arising from returning to work, from both individuals and organisations,” Mel said. “However, as yet, none of them have reached the mediation stage.”

She said some staff members were dreading returning to the office full-time and giving up their new-found work-life balance.

“People are finding it quite hard to re-adjust to their pre-COVID working lives,” Mel said.

“For some, it’s causing conflict with management, while others are looking for alternate employment.”

She said the solution for employers and managers was to identify the issues, develop options, consider alternatives and endeavour to reach an agreement with disgruntled staff.

Mel Haley

Conflict Resolution Service CEO Mel Haley says returning to the office has resulted in workplace conflict for some Canberra businesses. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

If workplaces are experiencing return-to-work conflict or dispute, they can seek guidance from an independent third party such as CRS.

“Left unresolved, workplace conflict can have a grave impact in any working environment,” Mel said.

“Not only in respect to diminished work performance, loss of revenue and poor work culture, but it can also label a workplace as ‘horrible’, ‘unsupportive’, or just plain ‘bad’.”

She said businesses may need to be more flexible to accommodate a new style of working.

Staff who feel pressured or stressed at work, and not confident in speaking with their managers or colleagues can also seek independent guidance from CRS.

Referring a dispute to a third-party mediation service ensures the parties have access to a fair and confidential process away from the workplace.

READ ALSO Canberra Innovation Network wants your ideas to shape capital’s future

“The majority of problems seem to be occurring due to poor communication, as there has been a big shift in the communication style due to COVID,” Mel said.

Director of alternate dispute resolution services at CRS, Jess Wolski, said if conflicts or disputes were dealt with incorrectly, valued staff members could move on to new employment, or require fair work intervention.

CRS offers a range of training programs to help business owners and managers develop their negotiation and communication skills to help them better communicate with their employees now and into the future.

“As well as mediation services, we offer training and workshops focussing on mediation, facilitation and communication, ideal for business owners or HR managers,” Jess said.

“One-off or ongoing conflict coaching can also help managers improve their communication skills and raise their awareness of conflict styles.”

Conflict Resolution Service is the only Canberra-based Nationally Accredited Mediation Training organisation that can assist with workplace, family and neighbourhood conflict.

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Because my employer cannot make me do what they want. I demand the right to work from home permanently

Capital Retro4:42 pm 12 May 22

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