Preventative measures can reduce the chances of a virtual harassment case.

productive remote work meeting

Harassment Prevention Considerations

          Cyberbullying is not the only form of online harassment in existence. Remote workplaces open up a window to a whole new form of virtual harassment, so it is important to make a plan and be prepared. Harassment in the workplace comes with a variety of repercussions, all of which can be avoided with the proper preventative measures.
Each state has its guidelines for what legally qualifies as harassment and what the repercussions are for different forms of harassment. California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, and New York all require harassment prevention training for all employees. Even if your state does not have harassment prevention requirements in place you should still make an effort to uphold the highest standards of harassment prevention in your workplace. Investing in the best preventative efforts for harassment will serve to foster a safe culture, improved quality of work, and a positive public presentation for your company.
            Harassment in the workplace is defined as any unwelcomed actions discriminating against a person’s race, sex, national origin, skin tone, physical ability status, religion, age, genetic information, and any other part of a person’s identity. With COVID-19 pushing a majority of companies towards a work from home business format, workplace harassment can move from a physical concern to a virtual one. In a virtual workplace, the opportunities for harassment to arise may seem to diminish at first glance, however, there are simply different forms of harassment present in such an environment. 
            Before discussing the preventative measures that should be taken in regards to online work, it is important to note that all forms of harassment can have a lasting detrimental impact on the employees they are directed at. For this reason, preventive measures are highly recommended for all forms of work, including virtual workplaces.

Presentation & Prevention in the Virtual Workplace

Working from home can be an exciting concept for employees. It provides them the opportunity to skip the morning commute and get comfortable, however, an employee’s idea of comfortable can cross the line of appropriate. In virtual meetings where employees can see each other, a dress code should be established or any pre-existing dresscode should be reviewed. Without such a measure in place, there is the opportunity for employees to appear on screen in unprofessionally revealing clothing or clothing that displays distasteful images/phrases. If an employee would not wear something to the office, then it is best they avoid that outfit when they work from home as well. It is also helpful to send reminders to individuals who are participating in a group call prior to its start. This will provide employees ample time to ensure they are professionally presentable.
            Presentation in the workplace goes beyond one’s clothing choice, as the environment from which employees’ video conference can also be grounds for harassment. In an office it is easy to keep an eye out for inappropriate decoration, however, supervisors have less control over the appearance of employees’ home offices. Posters, pictures, and other artifacts that can be seen over video calls can be offensive to other workers. For this reason, it is best to create guidelines for maintaining a professional home office during periods of remote work. Video conferencing in front of a plain wall in a space free of distractions and separate from the rest of the household is often best. This helps prevent other individuals in the household from appearing in the back of employees’ videos, to avoid distractions and any displays of inappropriate action by the employee’s household.
            Amid all these preventive measures it is important to consider how employees will receive any guidelines that are intended to prevent harassment. Harassment can cause stress, decrease morale, and harm company culture, but it is important to realize that overbearing leadership can do the same. A balance between regulations and freedom is required to maintain a healthy workplace, so be sure that all guidelines have rational business-based reasoning and that employees’ individual needs are considered. 

            If your company is struggling to balance harassment management with remote work First Response can help. We specialize in harassment prevention and management in all forms of workspaces, so you can rest assured that we will guide you to the perfect harassment preventive measures for your company.

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