Combatting office phobias: top tips to create the best office atmosphere
Guest blog by Emma Yearwood, Director of HR at Sodexo Engage
When starting a new job, it’s not uncommon for new joiners to suffer from some common fears as they settle in. We’ve all been there – getting used to an entirely new environment, collaborating with new people and learning different ways of working can take time. In order to make the environment as welcoming as possible, it’s important for senior leadership and managers to nip some of these fears in the bud before they take root.
- Hitting ‘Reply all’
One of the most common fears new joiners have is keeping the relevant people copied into the email chain, or cc-ing management when necessary. Usually it’s because staff worry that any slight mistake will be seen by senior management and put their role at risk.
The best way for managers to address this is to outline the reason why copying everyone on certain emails is necessary. It’s a good idea to reassure staff that this process isn’t there to keep an eye on them, but to make sure that everyone is up to speed with what’s going on in the team. Junior staff also need to know it’s an opportunity for them to show off their hard work and not be intimidated by this – reiterating that this process isn’t there to trip them up, but to help them grow.
- Managing up
It’s easy to forget that to new joiners, all managers can be a bit intimidating. This often leads to staff remaining silent or being a ‘yes person’ which can ultimately make them more stressed. That’s why it’s important for new joiners to feel comfortable communicating with their managers, updating them on tasks and pushing back on deadlines when needed to proactively manage workload.
To help with this, the management team needs to lead from the top, encouraging a positive atmosphere with friendly and approachable senior employees. This will foster good relationships with everyone on the team and make new joiners feel comfortable nudging managers or pushing back when needed.
- Not being a ‘keyboard warrior’
With email being the main source of contact these days, it’s really easy for staff to hide behind their computer. We’re all guilty of it, but there’s no escaping the fact that a phone call or face to face conversation would sometimes be much easier to answer a quick question or smooth over an issue.
To stop emails flying back and forth, it’s a good idea to set a precedent – if junior staff or new employees see that picking up the phone is the ‘norm’, they’ll feel better about doing it too. Managers can also suggest a call would be easier in some situations and help them by outlining how to approach the conversation if they’re nervous.
- Answering the office phone
Similarly, answering the office phone, transferring calls and dealing with pesky cold callers can be something new staff put off. This is probably something that long-serving employees don’t even think about, but it can sometimes take some encouragement to get new joiners to answer a bounced call. Making sure they know exactly how to deal with each type of call is a good place to start. Managers should set out all the extension numbers and how to use the system clearly, so that staff aren’t afraid of getting it wrong. Line managers can also encourage this by setting it as an objective at weekly or monthly catch ups.
- Reluctance to take a break
Many new employees are really keen to show their managers that they’re working hard – but this often presents itself as not taking breaks, staying late or coming in early. This practice is actually damaging for productivity, as staff get will get tired and will take longer to finish tasks. It’s therefore important to keep an eye on employees and be aware of their workload.
When it comes to leaving on time, it’s about creating the right culture. Make sure staff know it’s not necessary for them to stay late to be considered hardworking by appreciating and acknowledging them when they need it. If appropriate, managers can set informal rules to stop staff feeling like they have to be constantly on their emails, such as no client facing emails after the office closes.
It’s also a good idea to give training sessions on time management so that staff can put measures in place to make sure they get the work done while still making time for regular breaks. Above all, leading from example will have the biggest impact. If managers can show they leave on time, then this attitude will trickle down to staff.
A new office environment can create plenty of fears and concerns for staff. These kinds of fears are part of joining a new business, but that shouldn’t stop managers and senior leaders from establishing methods to overcome them. Whether it’s providing some training to make staff feel comfortable or setting an example from the top down, managers can help foster an inclusive and supportive environment and overcome these workplace phobias.