Five Tips to Help Create a Safe Work Environment

By Andy Surtz

Since before 2018 even began, you could not turn on the television, radio or computer without seeing or hearing news of another person falling victim to harassment in the workplace.  The #metoo movement is long overdue, though it is taking the world by storm.  A conversation that should have occurred in every workplace for decades is now happening consistently.  The idea of a safe work environment is not new.  However, it can be guaranteed that this idea is not going anywhere any time soon.  Employees, as well as employers, are taking notice of issues that may have been swept under the rug or laughed off in the past.  Here are five tips to help make sure you are creating a safe and inclusive work environment.

1. Create Clear Guidelines in the Employee Handbook

Your employee handbook is your company’s manual regarding acceptable and expected workplace behavior and responsibilities.  You have clear guidelines regarding vacation time, sick leave, job requirements, computer usage and many other expectations involved in working within your company.  Therefore, a section regarding acceptable behavior, and what would constitute harassment, is a natural fit.  Do not be afraid to draw a line and put it in writing for employees to see and understand.

2. Conduct Mandatory Harassment Training

Having a clear outline of expectations is a great start, though studies prove that not all people learn in the same manner.  Some people will understand what is and what is not acceptable by simply reading.  Others require examples.  Rather than assuming everyone is on the same page, be proactive.  Host employee harassment trainings on a regular basis, as recommended and provided by experts in the field.  Make sure to give employees plenty of notice so they can schedule accordingly.  Make sure you, as the boss, attend the training, as well, letting people know that no one is exempt. 

3. Have an Open Door Policy

Having an open door policy is key to helping employees feel comfortable reporting harassment issues.  However, this open door refers to HR, as opposed to management.  Since management can be guilty of harassment in the same manner as any other employee, the proper department to field complaints is your HR department.  Make sure your HR department is properly trained to handle such issues and deal with complaints appropriately. 

4. Be Fair to All Employees

Let employees know that there are no favorites.  Make sure your policies are fair to all employees, no matter their gender, race, religion, orientation or how long they have been with the company.  In order for your employees to be on board with a safe work environment, they must believe that their feelings are as important as anyone else within the company.

5. There Are No Exceptions

The truth is that many have made an off-color joke.  Many have hung a comic in their workspace that depicts men and women in unflattering lights.  Many have used derogatory or sexual pronouns when referring to their friends and co-workers.  Yet, until recently, many “laughed it off”.  Many did not pay attention to the one or two individuals in the room who showed signs of being offended.  No matter how funny or “normal” the comments or actions may seem, there are no exceptions.  If a person feels harassed, it must be addressed according to the rules set forth by your employee handbook and the law. 

Andy Surtz is Chief Operating Officer of Fusion Employer Services.  Fusion Employer Services had its humble beginnings in an accountant’s back office in central New Jersey, with a giant computer and two phones.  It grew client by client, on the premise that the best marketing is excellent customer service.  By honoring this model, word spread and Fusion Employer Services has become the fastest-growing PEO in the tri-state area.  Andy may be reached at [email protected].    

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