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Eight Workplace Harassment Red Flags In A Work-From-Home Environment

With the current coronavirus pandemic, the world has pivoted to remote working faster than anticipated. With employers realizing it would be untenable to allow workers to come into offices because of contagion risks, the shift to work-from-home has become the norm instead of the exception.

However, just like the working environment has changed to a home-based environment, so has workplace harassment. In settings such as these, workplace harassment that follows an employee into their homes can have devastating impacts on their mental well-being, as well as on their family.

Below, eight experts from Forbes Human Resources Council discuss some of the red flags indicative of workplace harassment following employees into their remote work environment.

1. Inappropriate Comments On Work Channels

Workplace harassment, whether in an office setting or working from home, is not that much different. Inappropriate comments on text message, email, instant messenger or team meetings are some examples. Other examples are employees having “inside jokes” about another employee or inappropriate pictures or jokes being sent around in company email. Leaders must lead by example, and inappropriate conduct must be reported. – Charmaine Marie Smith, CSI, Inc.

2. Comments About Someone’s Appearance

Inappropriate comments or gestures about an individual’s personal appearance during video calls are clear red flags. If a co-worker is making comments or gestures that make you feel uncomfortable or are discriminatory, alert HR or your manager immediately. – Jenna Hinrichsen, Advanced RPO

3. Use Of Obscenities Or Unprofessional Language

Workplace harassment in a work-from-home environment is different because it can directly impact your employee’s entire family if conference interactions are unprofessional while family members are within earshot. Professional language, with less obscenities, is so important right now as people work from home, with their small children close to them all day long in many cases. – Bryan Passman, Hunter + Esquire


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4. Unprofessional Tone And Jokes

Workplace harassment can enter a work relationship somewhat innocently in a technology-heavy communication season. Staff who are used to engaging friends on social media with jokes and debates can sometimes forget that their Zoom meeting is a professional forum. This is the season to remind staff about the rules of technology engagement. The timing, tone and content of their messages matter a lot. – Tammy Kelley, Bethany Christian Services

5. Too Many Team Chat Messages

Working in the office, you can go to someone’s cubicle or office if you need to communicate your needs, likes or dislikes. However, that is not an option working from home. If an employee receives a large number of “team messages” through chat that are not work-related, this may be viewed as harassment. Tell them to stop, as their messages are distracting. – Tish McFadden, Maryland Oncology Hematology

6. Being Left Out Of Conversations

Being left out of conversations is a form of harassment. This is going to be even more pronounced when some return to the office and others don’t. Enabling employees to overcommunicate and making sure all stakeholders are consulted is more important than ever. – Karla Reffold, BeecherMadden

7. Female Workers Being Asked For Video Calls

Workplace harassment in an extended work-from-home environment has some avenues that were not open in the work-from-office environment of the past. One such example is persistent requests to female colleagues for video calls even outside of regular work hours and/or indulging in inappropriate behavior on video calls. Managers need to watch out for such behaviors and take prompt remedial actions. – Sanjiv Agarwal, Swiss Re

8. Messages That Create A Hostile Environment

Harassment can still occur virtually. Employees should be on the lookout for messages, phone calls, or emails that create an inappropriate, hostile, or offensive work environment. Employers can help foster a safe and healthy remote environment by hosting virtual events on harassment and refreshing their existing policies. – Rachel Lyubovitzky, EverythingBenefits

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