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How to Address Workplace Harassment in the Age of Remote Work

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The past three years have brought many changes in how and where we work. What began as a response to the global pandemic, remote and hybrid work is now taking hold. And with this work paradigm comes some cultural shifts and new concerns for compliance and HR to address. One of them is how we deal with workplace harassment, which is also evolving into new ways of working. This post discusses workplace harassment in remote and hybrid environments and the importance of leveraging training to build a culture of ethics and respect.

Many of us are used to seeing blatant examples of workplace harassment in training videos, but remote harassment is much more nuanced than inappropriate comments in the cafeteria. For example, many organizations may have increased their adoption of instant messaging over the last few years. Sending a quick message to a colleague is now the norm. However, this form of informal communication carries some risks. Consider the following risks you may encounter when communicating using instant messaging:

  1. Online communication tends to have a more casual, conversational tone. Also, when I write casually, I sometimes forget that I need to be professional.
  2. Text, instant messaging, and email allow people to quickly and instantly contact colleagues, ask simple questions, and get quick answers. But if you try to get your message across in a hurry, the abbreviations can be misunderstood and lose context, leading to misunderstandings.
  3. Have you ever sent a message when you were angry or frustrated and later regretted sending it? In online communication, anger can be seen as bullying or even harassment.

Some forms of workplace harassment are easy to identify. For example, when we think of sexual harassment in the workplace, most of us can think of scenarios of unwanted comments and contacts. There is a possibility. Virtual harassment can be easily documented in the form of an email or instant message, but other examples include deliberately offensive clothing or placing items in the background (or virtual background).

Also, consider the prevalence of social media today and how personal accounts can lead to workplace cyberbullying. Bullying on various platforms is not a new concept, but it is definitely on the rise as issues like politeness in the workplace are on the rise.

Despite our best efforts to avoid it, virtual harassment occurs during and after work hours. This can take the form of unwanted Direct Her messages or comments, sharing inappropriate images or posts, disclosing personal information without permission, etc. Addressing workplace harassment in virtual environments requires a combination of vigilance and establishing an ethical culture.

All too often, instances of harassment are swept under the threshold and allowed to persist, creating a toxic work environment that reduces morale and increases turnover.

Ensuring a harassment-free workplace begins with creating a culture of ethics and respect. Best practices include a strong code of conduct, clear policies, effective compliance training, and hotlines and incident management programs that enable thorough follow-up and data that help identify trends.

A code of conduct sets the tone for how an organization expects its employees to behave inside and outside the workplace. This document is a powerful tool to communicate your organization’s values ​​and expectations of employee behavior.

Policies and procedures also play a role in establishing what consequences follow inappropriate behavior. Employees should know exactly what is expected of them and how the company will respond. Additionally, policies should be easily accessible and kept up to date so that those seeking information do not face information barriers.

Compliance training is one of the first and most consistent tools for getting your key messages across to your employees. Investing in quality, relevant online training, as well as legally vetted online training to comply with regulatory guidance, is a fundamental step in preventing harassment in the workplace. All employees and managers are required to undergo regular compliance training upon joining the company and during their tenure. Not only are workplace harassment training mandated in several U.S. states, but high-quality teaching materials that reflect contemporary scenarios must resonate with employees. Specifically, workplace harassment training is recommended annually, while other topics are less frequent.

An effective hotline and incident management program ensures proper management of reported incidents. Consistent documentation is key to identifying trends and repeat offenders, allowing organizations to provide additional support when needed to address harassment. Data from the hotline is a vivid representation of an organization’s culture. If avoiding workplace harassment is on your agenda, this is a great place to start.

Creating a culture of zero tolerance for harassment is probably more difficult in remote or hybrid environments. Workplace harassment is nothing new, but the complexities of remote and hybrid work, social media, and a highly virtualized world make it difficult to deal with. However, through clear values ​​and policies, due diligence in hotline reporting, and effective harassment training, organizations can ensure that this issue is addressed.

Ready to learn how we can help your organization address workplace harassment? Take the first step with our latest Workplace Harassment Compliance Training.

DELTA Data Protection & Compliance, Inc. Academy & Consulting – The DELTA NEWS – info@delta-data-compliance.com

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