After dealing with a few recent cases with our clients this month, we’ve decided to point our lens at the mishaps and misuse of equipment in the workplace and the minefield that so called ‘office pranks’ bring.
Workplace equipment can be any tool that an employee uses to get the job done and sometimes people can get it very wrong.
We’ve compiled a list of possible and real workplace equipment mishaps below, with some top tips about how to ensure your staff stay safe and that your, sometimes, very expensive equipment remains in one piece:
- Frustration when things don’t work! You’re on a deadline, under pressure to get your job done when technology, the very thing that should be helping you, gets in the way. Whether it’s a computer that’s frozen at just the wrong moment or a printer refusing to negotiate, some people have taken to aiming a good old fashioned cathartic kick at the object of frustration, although in this instance, the employee goes too far and, we guess, must have been very stressed.
- Slow day in the office. Some days you’re so busy that it feels as if time is slipping through your hands like water. Some days lay at the complete other end of the spectrum and, when not much is going on, idle employees can get up to all sorts: playing on their phones and using your computer to check their social media. Make sure your Staff Handbook covers the use of phones and social media while at work.
- It was a joke! There’s nothing like a bit of horseplay to raise team spirits in a work hard- play hard organisation and the office clown loves to play a prank or two to lighten the mood. Often the practical joker will use work equipment close at hand to create their prank, whether it be covering their target’s desk with post-it notes, swapping their keyboard letters around or re-enacting the famous ‘stapler in jelly’ scene from the hit TV program ‘The Office’. However, these ‘jokes’ can throw up tricky issues if staff get offended and you may have to deal with a bullying accusation.
- The outright dangerous! We’ve come to the last point; this blog really wouldn’t have been complete without it. Heavy machinery in the workplace poses all kinds of risks, hence the need for extensive safety measures in any such environment. But what happens when they’re used inappropriately? This clip is without doubt the perfect example.
This is a big no no! Though we doubt many of you have an industrial digger lying around our health and safety neuroticism went into overdrive watching this.
So this begs the question, can you reclaim money from your employee if they damage company property through carelessness, negligence or even high jinks? Unless you have stipulated this in their employment contract you are not lawfully allowed to make deductions from your employees’ wages unilaterally. If your staff member agrees to pay or contribute toward the damage, do get this in writing to protect your business from future claims. You must make sure that the amount you deduct reflects the realistic cost of the item and that the amount deducted per pay period is reasonable with respect to your employee’s earnings.
Some might argue that there’s nothing wrong with a little light humour and the odd office prank to keep the workplace fun. Well, what if an employee of yours serves as the target for the joke? How far is too far? As an employer it’s often difficult to play the bad cop. You want your employees to have fun but your priority is to make sure that all employees are protected, work gets done and that nothing reflects poorly on your organisation, particularly if it’s posted online. So, make sure your handbook and policies are up to date and a few helpful reminders (like circulating this blog for instance!) can never hurt.
For help and advice on separating “workplace fun” from disruptive or inappropriate behaviour, including the misuse of work equipment, just give The HR Dept a call.
Susan Beeby, The HR Dept
Tel: 0845 2962712
Mob: 07841 357577
(with acknowledgement to Sue Tumulty)