According to Global Workplace Analytics, at least 40% of the workforce works remotely with some frequency. That number has only skyrocketed as companies shift to remote work amidst the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, people managers are having to learn how to manage a remote workforce, which involves asking dozens of employees to interact across online platforms that all too often mimic the functions of social media. This leads us to ask: if the majority of a company's workforce is operating online, shouldn't their online behavior be, well, screened too?
Remote worker’s primary communication is online platforms
Chances are, if a significant portion of your team is remote, you’ve probably invested in a chat tool such as Slack, Flock, or Microsoft Teams to replace your sense of office community. The great thing about these tools is that they function like a virtual office and support quick, efficient communication across the board. Gone are the days of having your inbox inundated by endless reply-all threads!
The caveat is that these tools are very similar to social media--which in turn encourages more informal communication and relaxed personal/professional barriers. That doesn’t innately mean that these tools are bad--in fact they can help foster strong interpersonal connections between those that have access to the office and those that don’t. However, their Twitter-like chat style can invite toxic communication emboldened by the oftentimes depersonalized nature of working online. It follows then, that the most important thing you could do to get a clearer picture of your remote candidate is to screen their social media for signs of intolerance and bullying. In fact...
Cyberbullying in the workplace is on the rise
According to a recent SHRM article, The American Psychological Society estimates that US businesses lose about $300 billion a year to workplace cyberbullying-related incidents. Statistics from a 2014 survey indicate that nearly 30% of employees have experienced some form of bullying--most of which still comes from higher-ups throwing their weight around. Cyberbullying, while we mostly think of it as something that happens in secondary school, is just as much a part of toxic workplace culture as any other form of harassment and likely contributes to the statistic that one in four employees dread going to work.
The truth is, companies don’t need a physical workplace for bullying to become a rampant problem--the tools already exist, whether on work platforms or off-duty on social media sites. While working from home may generally reduce an employees’ stress levels, your remote employees are just as susceptible and just as capable of harassing each other from the comfort of their own homes, creating an even more difficult situation for your HR department to manage.
The good news is that social media screening can help foresee some of this toxic behavior and, like we mentioned earlier, give your hiring manager a clearer picture of your candidate by flagging potentially verbally abusive or threatening behavior. Whether it’s continuing to perform periodic screenings to better inform your understanding of employee health or an initial background screening for new employees in the door, social media screening is an essential tool for assessing brand risk as well as culture fit. As companies move more and more of their operations out of the office and into the cloud, social media screening is fast-becoming a necessary tool for benchmarking (and preventing) toxic behavior in the workplace.
You should be standardizing your screening process anyway
It goes without saying that your in-office employees are still using the same tools and are just as susceptible to toxic behavior. The case still stands that screening is necessary for remote employees due to their high dependency on online communication, but the truth is that every employee, in-office or remote, is capable of toxic behavior, and social media screening remains an excellent tool to gauge how that might crop up at work. Whether they hang around the water cooler or your spam your #random channel, all of your employees deserve a standardized treatment, which is why one of our recommended best practices is to perform uniform baseline screening procedures on everyone that enters your workforce.
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About the author
Lindsey is an HR content writer and lifestyle blogger.