With all of the anxiety around what the future of work (and life) will look like and employee complaints on the rise, taking a proactive approach in communicating how employees can bring their concerns to HR or Managers needs to be on the priorities list. And a key part of that communication must include clarity on what happens after an employee makes a report. Even if your Workplace investigations are thorough, unbiased, and defensible, there are some changes that will have to be made in order to effectively conduct your process with remote employees. Here are a few items to consider when conducting workplace investigations with remote employees.
Investigation interviews are generally conducting in a private office or conference room where distractions can be limited. But as we have seen in many YouTube clips, we are getting very comfortable with online meetings allowing animals, children, noise, and other interruptions to creep into our virtual meeting space. Distractions can stop the flow of information dead in its tracks. With the sensitive nature of interviews this must be prohibited. Phone interviews may be used but video interviews allow the interviewer to make critical observations that are key to determining the credibility of the interview. The following items should be done in advance of the interviews.
- Communicate the need for a quiet private space to conduct the interviewee to ensure privacy and a safe place to speak openly. This means notifying those who may be in the house or other virtual meetings that interruptions will not be allowed for the period of time set aside for the interview.
- Explain any changes in the workplace investigation process to participating employees and managers prior to the investigation taking place.
- Provide interview notices that outline applicable rules such as expectations of participation, limited confidentiality, and protection from retaliation, as well as meeting details in advance of the interviews.
- Arrange your office background to be calm and inviting on screen and ensure you dress professionally, even when you are conducting the interviews from home, to represent that you are taking this investigation seriously.
- If you plan to be taking notes by hand or on your keyboard, let the interviewee know upfront to ensure they understand why and know that you are engaged and not doing other work at the same time.
Advanced Preparation for your workplace investigations is key for a call or video interview. Before dialing or logging into your chosen platform, there are some items that should be done in order to provide for a comfortable and respectful interview.
- Prepare documents, emails, and videos to be shared during interviews ahead of time to keep interview time within promised parameters.
- Ensure your virtual meeting platform and plan has a sufficient allotted meeting time length. (Most will allow for at least 60 minutes, but some of the free subscriptions may time out at 30 minutes)
- Log in to your virtual meeting platform ahead of the scheduled meeting time to ensure your camera background is clear, you do not have any confidential items open on your screen.
- Be ready a few minutes before your interviews and take a few breaths to calm yourself. Then open the meeting 2-3 minutes before the scheduled time, as it will be difficult to get an interviewee to relax if they have been waiting on the line before the meeting opens.
To record or not to record…..that is the question in workplace investigations. Although an audio or video recording of investigation interviews can be very useful, it is key to verify your state laws on whether one or both parties in the interview must consent to being recorded. It is often a good idea to confirm permission to record with the interviewee at the onset even if it is not required to ensure no lines are being crossed.
- Before the interview, it’s important to set the requirements. For example, if video is required, verify that the interviewee has a working camera and sufficient bandwidth to accommodate the video call.
- Request the interviewee to check on the users using online services at the time of the interview, and reduce streaming, downloading, or gaming if possible.
- Suggest the interviewee try to access the conference platform, download if necessary, and login to ensure there are no delays on the interview day.
- Plan to have all documents you wish to share open and reduced into your dashboard tray prior to the interview for ease of sharing, and suggest the interviewee do the same.
- If you plan to use an investigation software or online resource for the interview, it may be useful to have dual screens available or open the platform on a separate laptop so that you do not accidentally share your notes.
- Some people are more uncomfortable with virtual meetings than they are in person. If this is the case, allow for breaks as needed. Just be sure to mute your microphone and close screen-sharing during the breaks.
Were all people first and that’s important to remember. Although we need to be professional in a workplace investigation interview, we can still be compassionate for the struggles we are all facing and allow the interview to proceed in a calm and respectful manner.
In our recent “Employers Guide: Plan to Return Employees to Work”, we provide a worksheet to take you through the process of reviewing and adjusting your investigation plan as needed to accommodate your changing work conditions. Feel free to download you FREE GUIDE and share it with whomever you feel may find it useful.
Stay safe and be well. We will get through this together.