What is Workplace Restoration?

Workplace Restoration is gaining more attention as an effective HR tool, but what is it and when should it be used? Workplace Restoration can be defined in different ways but at its core, it is a means of establishing or re-establishing harmonious working relationships and civility between individuals and/or within teams. Workplace Restoration is most often used following incidents or formal complaints and investigations of harassment, discrimination, and reprisal, or following other disruptive events in the workplace such as strikes or changes in leadership. Complaints and investigations are very disruptive for everyone involved and should be followed up with some form of ‘after care’ to address the harm they have experienced. When HWR conducts workplace investigations, our reports always include recommendations for restoration, regardless of the findings.

Restorative actions can prevent escalation

Although Workplace Restoration is a very effective tool in response to disruptive events, it is equally effective as a proactive or pre-emptive tool and can be used to address the impact of unresolved conflict, incivility, and toxicity in the workplace before these factors escalate to formal complaints. Employers can effectively manage these issues by identifying the underlying causes and risk factors and addressing them proactively through a range of restorative actions.

Regardless of whether it is implemented as a proactive or reactive measure, the goal of Workplace Restoration should be to:

  • establish/build or re-establish a heathy and safe work environment for all by addressing the psychological and emotional harm experienced;
  • create a cohesive team environment in which employees and leaders support, encourage and recognize one another;
  • promote a healthier workplace environment by improving interpersonal and/or team dynamics; and
  • promote trust and confidence in leadership.

Restoration requires planning

Effective Workplace Restoration requires a solid plan. The plan should begin with a clearly defined scope setting out the purpose, goals, and objectives. The scope should be developed with input from stakeholders (including employees) and must be supported and communicated by leaders. The goals of the plan should be tailored to the specific issues and needs of the individuals and work environment targeted by the restorative actions which, in some cases, will be identified through an investigation (if one was conducted).

Using Workplace Assessment to plan for Restoration

If you are looking to implement Workplace Restoration as a proactive or pre-emptive measure where no investigation has taken place, the first step should be to conduct a Workplace Assessment. An assessment is not an investigation. It focuses on identifying negative factors in the workplace and the impacts of them on individuals, team, and workplace relationships. Assessments are less confrontational and intrusive than investigations and are more effective than culture or engagement surveys in identifying and supporting restorative actions.

When conducting a Workplace Assessment, we gather information about the needs of the work unit and individuals in it as well as the underlying causes of negative factors in the current environment. We can explore these issues in a confidential, non-confrontational manner. The information gathered is used to create a baseline and informs the specific initiatives to be undertaken through Workplace Restoration. Assessments are conducted using a variety of tools including surveys, confidential one-to-one interviews, focus groups and facilitated discussions, and environmental scans, as well as analysis of past complaints and other relevant HR data.

Resolution-oriented, forward-looking restoration

Effective restoration plans must not only have a clear purpose and scope, but also set out clearly defined, resolution-oriented recommendations for restorative actions. Plans should be designed to address identified issues moving forward not looking back. Restorative actions may include:

education and/or training for individuals or groups;

  • education and/or training for individuals or groups;

  • ADR options (including mediation, facilitated discussion, counselling, coaching, healing circles, motivational interviews);
  • group/team building activities to improve dynamics;
  • performance management and monitoring; and
  • operational changes to address identified issues.

The restoration plan should also set out specific timelines for implementation of deliverables; a process for monitoring implementation and addressing issues that arise during the implementation stage; evaluation/assessment of the restoration process and effectiveness of restorative initiatives; and a plan for ongoing follow-up/check-ins with involved parties.

Is Workplace Resolution in your HR toolbox?

So, when should your organization look to engage in Workplace Restoration? Anytime. If your organization seeks to build or restore a psychologically safe, respectful, and inclusive workplace, consider using Workplace Restoration not only in response to disruptive events but also as a proactive or pre-emptive tool to effectively address negative workplace influences before they cause more harm.

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