A lot of companies have shifted to more employees working remotely, but just because we’re operating differently doesn’t mean we should get lax about policy. Companies should have policies and procedures in place for safety, discriminatory behavior, and harassment. Harassment in particular can still happen even in a remote work environment, and that’s something companies and managers need to be aware of.
Different types of harassment
Harassment comes in many forms. While more physical forms of harassment aren’t likely to occur with a remote workforce, there’s still a chance of verbal, visual, or cyber harassment. And it might not always be as overt as you think. People get lax on work attire and perhaps end up on a video call with an inappropriate shirt that creates an unwelcoming work environment for another employee. Or perhaps there’s objectionable or offensive imagery in the background on video calls. Even in chat communication, we can get too relaxed and not pay attention to what we’re saying.
It’s still your responsibility as the employer to create a safe and harassment-free workplace. There are a lot of heightened tensions that can come into the workplace, especially when people are comfortable in their home.
Being at home makes things different. It can take more effort for some employees to put that professional face on when in their own homes and more relaxed. Employees have to realize that they’re at work and still have to be professional, especially because those lowered standards can mean heightened chance of harassment. That could be sexual, racial, or gender-based harassment, or it could even be harassment against people who still keep working from home after some have returned to the office.
Just as they would in the office, employees need to report any concerns to human resources, and that means taking extra steps with your communication efforts to ensure employees feel comfortable doing so in a remote environment.
Annual harassment training
Companies should do harassment training annually to make sure all employees are aware of what constitutes harassment. They need to train people to recognize it, work to prevent it, and report it when they see it.
Even if your team works fully remote, you can’t ignore this. Remote work doesn’t mean everyone suddenly becomes a freelance contractor with limited oversight and contact. They’re still employees, and there’s still risk to the company if an employee experiences harassment.
Touching base frequently is important for companies that have shifted to mostly remote work. People need those regular communication channels to be open for the little things. But they also need the big things, and that includes harassment training.
Don’t let working remotely keep you and your team from completing harassment training. It can be delivered virtually just like any other training topic or meeting, and it’s too important to skip.
No matter what your work situation for employees, you can’t lose sight of your culture. It’s important to maintain it by creating and following the standards you’ve set on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis, and that includes annual harassment training and accountability for all employees.
If you need help creating a positive, harassment-free work environment for your remote team, contact us today. We can help with creating the right policies and training your employees.