The coronavirus lockdown measures moved many workplaces home, and in some cases, bullying and harassment have followed.

Is the Future of Work Remote?

A recent Gartner survey suggests that 74% of CFO’s and finance leaders plan to shift at least 5% of previously on-site employees to permanently remote positions after the pandemic. And while not all organizations plan to work remotely long term, many are considering a flexible/hybrid approach that would leave some employees at home, at least some of the time.

No matter what comes next, it is imperative that companies reconsider what constitutes a workplace, and by extension what constitutes workplace harassment.

Virtual Misconduct on the Rise Amid the Lockdown

When work and private-life blend, environments become more informal and, in some cases, inappropriate, providing the perfect setting for professional boundaries to slip.

And while economies are opening back up, many people are worried about the stability of their jobs and their families’ financial well-being. This economic vulnerability and added stress create a breeding ground for misconduct.

“During periods of uncertainty, employee misconduct increases by as much as 33%,” Gartner reports. Consequently, we see a rise in complaints of virtual harassment, discrimination and bias amongst remote teams.

Common Workplace Complaints Reported by Remote Teams

  • Offensive or hostile language
  • Intimidation on messaging apps and text messages on personal phones
  • Gender harassment and racial intimidation
  • Exclusion from meetings and bullied over video calls
  • Inappropriate comments that belittle individuals, over the phone, by text message or by e-mail

Employer Responsibilities

While workplace misconduct issues can be harder to solve remotely, employers still have an obligation to provide a safe and healthy work environment, even with a workforce that is now spread across different neighbourhoods, cities, and even provinces.

Employers must prioritize rooting out inappropriate behaviour and mistreatment of employees by:

  • Developing and implementing workplace harassment and workplace violence policies that provide clear expectations of acceptable and prohibited employee behaviour, procedures for managers and supervisors, and consequences for violations.
  • Offering anti-harassment and bystander training to teach staff to speak up when they spot inappropriate behaviour and establish a healthy workplace culture. Consider whether external trainers with relevant expertise may be more effective at delivering the training.
  • Designing and implementing a robust and easily accessible reporting mechanism and resolution procedure for employees to share concerns and complaints.
  • Following up on complaints with an effective, fair investigation, conducted by an internal HR professional or third-party investigator.

No matter where you’re working, concerns about harassment can’t be ignored. You can count on Cenera’s HR Advisors and expert Workplace Investigation team to look into workplace issues and complaints, set up external reporting mechanisms your employees can trust, or conduct fair and timely third-party investigations.

Contact us today to book a consultation!

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