Selective Safety and Well Being
It is always entertaining to observe these organisations spruiking the latest spin and fads in HR and organizing. The fad of ‘hot desking’ and ‘open offices’ is such an example (http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/open-plan-offices-arent-working-20160727-gqexts.html ). It is also amusing to go into these organisations with safety first, zero mantras and well being spin on walls but with fundamental structures that are dangerous, dehumanizing and damaging. The research into ‘hot desking’ and ‘open offices’ demonstrates that such models of organizing are destructive to relationships, harm workplace health and subsequently break down trust and morale, an essential in any environment for managing risk.
There is sound research that demonstrates that the way we organize affects the health and safety of employees (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/078559809?journalCode=rama20). Of course ‘hot desking’ mythology suggests it can improve productivity when it doesn’t (http://www.smh.com.au/business/how-hotdesking-offices-can-wreck-productivity-20131229-301lh.html). It is inflicted on employees without consultation under all kinds of fake auspices but creates toxic work environments and negativity (http://www.businessinsider.com.au/hot-desking-is-a-big-trend-heres-why-a-lot-of-people-hate-it-2013-4).
It is crazy to talk about health and well being and then harm people by the way the business organizes (http://www.iirsm.org/sites/default/files/IIRMS%20technical_working%20methods_HR.pdf, http://helen.wilding.name/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/How-Working-Environments-Affect-Health.pdf). This is how workplace culture becomes skeptical, cynical and toxic, a fundamental ingredient in most incidents and accidents at work. Toxic organisations create breakdown in communication and consultation, an essential in managing risk and safety.
The trouble is with all this is that people know that all the propaganda and spin in health, safety and well being is quickly undone when the priority is money. They know that the organization will have a Spanish inquisition into a minor Lost Time Injury but let slip under the radar thousands of lost days due to ‘unexplained’ absence. The overt curriculum says, we want you to care and respect each other, whilst we learn through the hidden curriculum that WHS and well being spin is bullshit. Brilliant, everyone gets a ‘fit bit’ and an apple in the kitchen but gets dunked in toxicity by the way they are oppressed by hot desking.
Another example is that despite all the research into the harm and damage of FIFO and DIDO (https://safetyrisk.net/could-zero-harm-be-unlawful/, https://safetyrisk.net/the-challenges-for-organisations-in-dealing-with-mental-health/, https://safetyrisk.net/the-seduction-of-measurement-in-risk-and-safety/ ) zero harm organisations continue to preach nonsense and measure band aid cuts whilst at the same time harming people in huge number by their methods in organizing and nonsense measurement parameters. Whilst the words may say zero and care, the hidden curriculum teaches that the bottom line is dollars and that people are objects in a system.
The next step is Activity-based Working (http://theconversation.com/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-hot-desk-say-hello-to-activity-based-working-26622), next cab off the rank in deepening cynicism at work. No wonder people normalise the ‘double speak’ of organisations under the pressure of mortgage payments and obedience to authority, whilst at the same time wondering why there are more sick days and harm at work. Its easy, its just selective harm not zero harm, it’s just selective well being, not really care for well being.
Of course, challenge ‘hot desking’ or ‘zero’ and you will quickly discover how religiously the organisation holds to its myths and how quickly you will be excommunicated.