This content was created by Girlboss in partnership with AllVoices.
When you think of the textbook examples of workplace harassment, it might be easy to think they’re only possible when you’re physically in the same building as the person who’s harassing you. After all, how can someone make “a joke” about your religious beliefs if you’re not forced to see them in the kitchen, or make you uncomfortable with how long they linger at your desk if you don’t work in the same shared space anymore?
We’re here to break some bad news: “Sadly, working remotely doesn’t protect workers from the reaches of workplace harassment,” according to human resources consultant Leigh Elena Henderson, who’s worked with companies on the Fortune 500 and beyond. “Where there’s people, there’s opportunity for harassment regardless of the environment.” That thinly veiled insult might just come via Slack, or those important meetings you’re excluded from simply happening via Zoom rather than in the boardroom down the hall. “Certainly there is less physical harassment, with more verbal bullying and mental abuse on the rise,” Henderson confirms. “In this new work environment where so many are now working remotely, frustrations and stressors are at an all-time high. When there’s great stress in an environment, everyone copes differently and some may gravitate more towards negative behaviors. “
The stats back her anecdotal observations out. According to a 2021 study of workplace harassment conducted by AllVoices, a platform that enables employees provide anonymous feedback safely to their companies, 38 percent of people who’d experienced workplace harassment in person still experienced it remotely—and 24 percent actually thought it had gotten worse through remote work channels like email, video conferencing or chat apps. Worse still? The survey found that 18 percent of employees who’d seen or experienced this harassment didn’t report it because they either feared retaliation or just didn’t think their company would do anything to resolve the situation.
38 percent of people who’d experienced workplace harassment in person still experienced it remotely—and 24 percent actually thought it had gotten worse…
“Ultimately the onus should be on individuals to not harass others at work, and on companies to clearly communicate what harassment is, and what specific behaviors are violations of their code of conduct – and the law,” says Claire Schmidt, chief executive officer at AllVoices. “It is important to remind employees on an ongoing basis that they are in a psychologically and physically safe environment,” she says, noting that this could be where an anonymous virtual platform like AllVoices’ comes in, especially knowing that 85 percent of those survey respondents say they would be much more likely to report harassment if they knew they could do so anonymously. “If all parties are working from home, then a digital tool like AllVoices can be especially helpful.”
If you are experiencing workplace harassment, “you shouldn’t have to suffer through it,” says Henderson. “All workers are deserving of being treated with dignity and respect at all times within work environments.” Know that you do have legal protections, and, if you’re not comfortable going straight to HR, be aware that your company may have a psychologically safe way to share anonymous feedback to report issues like the platform discussed above.
Most importantly: “No job is worth your self-worth and safety, so please put that above all else if you’re suffering through workplace harassment and get help because you deserve to thrive and be successful at work,” says Henderson. “Sadly, it’s not illegal for someone to be a jerk, but if the behavior is pervasive, habitual, and concentrated on an individual it may cross a legal threshold that constitutes harassment. Regardless, these behaviors should be addressed to ensure a positive work environment for all to effectively perform within.”