When the pandemic first hit in 2020, I was deeply surprised by the number of people who questioned whether workplace harassment was now a thing of the past. Had society's transition to a digital workplace marked the end of office-based bullying & harassment and heralded in a new egalitarian dream? Was there even a need for a technology solution tackling harassment at work when there wasn't an office any more?
Sadly, of course there was.
At InChorus, we sat in our virtual office(s) and began piecing together a picture of the 'new' forms of harassment emerging and accelerating over digital channels in our remote workplaces. Pioneering research quickly showed the scale of the problem: an early survey into 'online workplaces' received over 5000 responses and found a serious threat to their safety & wellbeing, with 827 reporting online sexual harassment and 888 people experiencing 'zoom-bombing', stalking or threats online. 'Zoom-bombing' - or when a stranger gatecrashes a zoom call to cause disruption - is just one example of “new types” of harassment that digital channels expose users to.
More recently, a study using InChorus' data has shown that across a range of non-inclusive behaviour reports, 60% of these took place online, through email, video conferencing or chat apps.
It goes without saying that the effect of online harassment - like all bullying and harassment - can be debilitating and deeply affect the individual involved. The moral imperative to address this is irrefutable. But the business case for prioritising solutions is also clear, with negative behaviours impacting employee wellbeing, productivity and retention of top talent - all key drivers of the bottom line.
We've written before about the fact that traditional reporting channels are not working when 79% of all harassment goes unreported. Today, the imperative to manage remote teams, and an online office culture has only increased the challenge of tackling these behaviours.
Fortunately new technology platforms like InChorus are offering companies a way to increase transparency, psychological safety and create inclusive, harassment-free cultures through better speak-up tools.
We recommend a few key considerations when looking at how to prevent online harassment and ensure a safe and inclusive remote/hybrid workplace.
When it comes to tackling harassment, you can't solve problems you can't see. Our platform has been shaped with HR & EDI experts to provide early insights into trends and patterns of online and offline harassment so that you can zoom in on any weaknesses and take targeted, data-led action.
The ease of use, range of different reporting channels (e.g. nuanced pathways for behaviours like microaggressions that often get overlooked), and inclusion of anonymous routes is key to increasing reporting rates. In an online workplace, have you made sure your 'open door policy' translates digitally?
3. Our digital world never sleeps, you need to support employees 24/7. Online harassment can be particularly insidious in its ability to reach into employees' lives and make individuals feel they have nowhere to turn. Look for platforms that offer 24/7 reporting channels and self-serve support and resources for individuals in order to protect wellbeing.