Shouldn’t remote work reduce workplace harassment?

Given the increase in remote and hybrid work, you might think workplace harassment would decline. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The pandemic created and continues to fuel critical, intensive, and urgent workplace issues, including workplace harassment.

In our previous Soteria article, James talked about the history of laws surrounding employee harassment protection. Due to recent inquiries and the latest data about workplace harassment, I am compelled to share more information with you.

Reign in Resignations

According to Pew Research, 57% 1 of employees who quit during the Great Resignation did so because they felt disrespected. On the spectrum of bad behavior, harassing is much worse than disrespecting.

Disrespected may mean that you may feel undervalued or have a boss who might not listen to you. By contrast, harassment includes aggressive pressure or intimidation. Nearly 3 in 4 sexual harassment claims in the workplace go unreported.2 It seems likely that harassment is one of the variables that prompted employees to join the Great Resignation.

Hues of Harassment

While no employer wants to be accused of harassment, all employers need to be armed with knowledge about workplace harassment. Harassment encompassed multiple types of behaviors, including:

  1. Physical Harassment
  2. Personal Harassment
  3. Discriminatory Harassment
  4. Psychological Harassment
  5. Cyberbullying
  6. Sexual Harassment
  7. 3rd Party Harassment: i.e., from suppliers, vendors, and customers

Frightening Figures

Reports throughout 2021 indicate that workers experienced increases in harassment based on gender, age, race, and ethnicity while working remotely during the pandemic.

  • The Purple Campaign: over one in four respondents experienced unwelcome sexual behavior online since the start of the health crises, either via videoconferencing, email, or text messages3
  • Deloitte Global: 52% of women reported having experienced some form of harassment or microaggressions within the past year 4
  • Project Include: 25% of tech-industry respondents said they experienced an increase in gender-based harassment during the pandemic, 10% said they saw the same hostility increase related to their race or ethnicity, and 23% of those 50 years and older reported a rise in age-related abuse 5
  • AllVoices: 34% have left a job because of unresolved harassment issues; 38% are experiencing harassment remotely, through email, video conferencing, chat apps, or by phone 6

How is this happening?

The increase in harassment may be partly due to the perceived informality of remote work, leading some people to say or do things they would not participate in person. In addition, a lack of witnesses and the ability to display unwanted behavior on a potentially unmonitored platform may embolden harassers. This can place already vulnerable employees at more risk than usual.

In addition, we know that many people are suffering from mental health issues which can make people even more afraid and frustrated by the pandemic, political issues, and global conflicts.

Halting for harassment

Outsourcing human resources can greatly help address workplace harassment and many other business concerns. We can take a fresh look at your corporate culture and hierarchy that may be fostering unwanted harassment. We can help you set up your workforce for success:

Remote Standards

Though the lines between home and work have blurred, tell employees to bring their best professional selves to virtual work. Remind employees that standards for conduct during remote work periods are no less important than those required for in-person work. Set a dress code for remote work meeting attendance. Consider requiring a standard virtual background for virtual meetings with your business logo to protect employee privacy. Provide whatever reminders are necessary for employees to remember that they are expected to act professionally while working from home.

Distribute Policy Reminders

Remind employees of your policies prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace and how they should report misconduct. Ensure your business’ expectations regarding electronic communications are clear. If your business has not done so already, consider adopting policies that prohibit sharing sexually suggestive or explicit content in workplace settings and on company devices and communication channels.

Train Employees and Managers

Provide training to help employees identify and report online sexual harassment, train bystanders to intervene to stop harassing behavior, and remind all employees that retaliation for reporting alleged sexual harassment or participating in an investigation is illegal. Different states have different minimum training requirements.

Take Action

Take immediate action if you receive a complaint about any harassment. Ensure that the complainant is protected from further harmful behavior and consult legal assistance.

Reach out to Soteria HR regarding any of your HR needs.





Samantha Harwood