Over the past few years, many businesses have shifted their focus to remote work, and many have adopted video conferencing as an important part of their meetings. Unfortunately, sexual harassment has evolved along with these business practices. What should employees know about sexual harassment in a virtual work environment?
What forms does sexual harassment take in a virtual office?
While many people think of unwanted touching when they envision sexual harassment, harassment can include many forms of unwanted sexual advances, comments, jokes or other actions. As a result, employees may experience sexual harassment even if they are miles away from their harasser. Some of the forms this virtual harassment can take include:
- Unwanted sexual comments or jokes in meetings
- Repeated sexual advances via text, message or email
- Sexual images sent via digital messages or displayed in the background of video conferences
- Colleagues exposing themselves on video chat
- Pressure for employees to show more of their bodies on camera during video conferences
Unfortunately, these digital forms of harassment have become a common issue for employees. Some polls indicate that around one in four have experienced gender-related harassment over the past year.
What can you do if you experience harassment when working remotely?
Part of the reason sexual harassment continues even in virtual workplaces is that harassers can feel emboldened by the perceived privacy of digital communication. However, if you experience sexual harassment while working remotely, that same technology can provide you with opportunities to document the harassment you experience. By taking screenshots and saving the messages you receive, you can create a record of this mistreatment and lay the groundwork for reporting it to your employer or taking legal action if necessary.