How remote work is impacting whistleblowing

With increased numbers of staff working remotely, managing whistleblower complaints properly is more important than ever… 

The global Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted business to a degree not seen since the great depression. And when disruption increases, so does risk. 

As an increasing percentage of the workforce moves home and stays there, it’s more important than ever that businesses ensure that whistleblowing channels remain open and effective for staff – wherever they’re located.  

The Covid-19 pressure test

“When disaster strikes, there’s a natural inclination towards focusing on cash flow and revenue generation,” says Greg Dunn, director at Report It Now.  

“As economic pressure increases however, there can be less of a focus on business integrity, ethics and speak up initiatives.” 

As stress increases, the temptation to bend (or break) the rules can increase too. And as profits shrink, staff are laid off, and as oversight diminishes, there is the potential that hitherto unconsidered bad behaviour could be rationalised. 

The remote working challenge

As out-of-office working increases, conventional compliance programs can struggle to cope. Indeed, remote working itself may create more opportunities for misconduct, as the usual checks and balances are upset and traditional methods of oversight fail to meet the challenge of a remotely distributed workforce. 

Add to this the fact that remote working can bring with it new attitudes towards working in general, with employees suddenly feeling less personally invested with business outcomes. Under certain circumstances, speaking up might appear simply ‘not worth the effort’ if the effects are not being felt directly.  

Availability is crucial 

Even during times of change, it’s important that reporting channels remain open. Whether in the office, in the field, or working from home, workers should be able to report wrongdoing without fear of repercussion. Do all of your staff members have access to multiple (phone, text and browser-based) confidential, secure and anonymous reporting channels?

Every business has its own unique challenges, so an independent third-party ethics reporting platform that can provide anonymous, confidential and secure hotline facilities across channels is always advised. 

Keep talking 

Setting the correct tone from the top is important and that goes double when managing remote employees. A twenty minute all-staff teleconference (or even just a simple one-on-one phone call) encouraging employees to speak up if they have concerns or see wrongdoing – and ensuring them that they are protected and will be supported if they do so – can make an enormous difference. 

Similarly, listen. Circumstances have changed radically in the last few months, so be especially open to feedback and cognizant of new ethical challenges and scenarios that may arise. 

Put it in writing

As the nature of working changes so too must your company’s Code of Conduct documentation. Both core principles and concrete expectations need to be clearly and compellingly communicated. Clarity is crucial.

So what is your case management policy for issues that involve remote workers?

Once again, an independent third party ethics reporting system like Report It Now can provide guidance and support for management while educating employees to report misconduct in an anonymous, secure and confidential manner.

When the time comes, act

When complaints are made, timely action, fairness and process transparency are always required. A backlog of unresolved complaints discourages whistleblowers from using authorised channels and motivates whistleblowers to seek resolution elsewhere.

These are strange new times, but the risks – fraud, bullying, harassment – are the same as ever. 

Ensuring that your whistleblower policy, procedures and platform are up to the task is crucial to navigating these uncertain times. Contact Report It Now to discuss how ethical behaviour can be supported in your workplace.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *