Unless we’ve been victim to it ourselves, most people think harassment doesn’t really happen that often in the workplace. Sure, there’s a story here or there over the course of a few years, and maybe those employees were let go, which can give a false sense of security.

If those employees are no longer there to attack or harass, then the problem must be no more, right?


For every complaint of harassment that’s filed with People Ops, or that you catch wind of at the watercooler, you can bet there are plenty more examples that aren’t communicated to the people that really need to know so they can take proper action!

Plain and simple, harassment should not be tolerated in the workplace, but unfortunately, it’s still an issue in this day and age.

Well, it’s only a problem at the office, right?

Wrong again.

Remote workers have just as high of a chance (if not more) at being exposed to harassment on the job.

Keep in mind, harassment can be anything that is said or done to make an employee feel uncomfortable, whether it be sexual in nature or not.

Let’s take a look at why harassment is an issue for the Remote work environment.

One reason harassment is such an issue for remote workers is because some employees just feel more confident that they can get away with it. They may very well have malicious intent, but feel because they’re not in an office with other workers nearby, or workplace cameras to record on the elevator, that they can say or do what they feel like. If they become belligerent in a face to face online meeting that’s not being recorded, it can become a “he said/she said”, and some employees are willing to risk that.

Unfortunately, many workers become a little too overconfident in the things they do or say, because they neither consider nor care about the consequences.

Another factor contributing to high harassment rates amongst remote workers is higher visibility into people’s personal lives.

With remote work, you may have a camera on for your team meeting, as your 5 year old runs around in the background. With aspects of your personal life on display, it’s easy for others to assume you’ve shared it with them personally, and not just by happenstance. This can take a professional atmosphere down to casual, as team members may feel a little too relaxed in the things they do or say. They may feel you’ve given them a pass to comment on the state of your house, your outfit or appearance, or other things within view. This can lead to things like off colour comments and jokes that are inappropriate in their attempt to bond, and can cross the line.

As much as people like to think remote workers have it “made in the shade”, so to speak, it can oftentimes be a very stressful environment, especially if the remote work is in the home.

Working from home presents it’s own challenges, and depending on how people process their frustrations, can take it out unfairly on their coworkers.

Chat in itself is difficult to regulate, and without our abilities to see the eyes or mouth of the person communicating, it can be difficult to ascertain what they really mean. It can also feel like a barrage if they’re angry, which is hard for people to just write off as an ill-timed or ill-worded comment.

Mediation from that can be difficult, and many employees may just quickly forgive or brush under the rug when the matter should be addressed.

When it comes to addressing harassment, no one should ever feel that they deserve it, or are the root cause of the problem.

Unwanted statements, either through phone, face chat, or written language are not something that anyone should just tolerate because they aren’t sure how to address the issue. If you feel you’ve been the victim of harassment, it’s important to communicate these issues to the right individuals!

If you feel comfortable enough, bring up the issue to your manager, but if not, seek out your People Operations Pro’s to see what resources they have on the issue. Whether you address the person yourself, or choose to have an intervention, know that just because you work remotely, doesn’t mean you have to put up with inappropriate behavior.

Whether it be because of stress, or someone just being too comfortable with you, know that these are not excuses, and you still have the right to establish healthy, professional boundaries for yourself.

Your work environment should be a place you feel protected and safe enough to perform your tasks without being embarrassed or targeted.

If you are a People Ops teammember, do your best to make sure remote employees have the necessary processes in place for them to communicate and protect themselves should they become a victim of harassment in the workplace.

You may even want to allow for anonymous tips, as well, to help coax some individuals who may not otherwise come forward due to fear of repercussions.

Harassment in the workplace is never ok, but having the right tools in place can help foster a better remote working environment.

© Human Resources Global

Categories: Remote Work


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