As millions of Americans are settling into a “new normal” and working from home, employers should revisit their company policy regarding workplace harassment. Because the workplace doesn’t look quite like it used to, employees must use creative channels of communication while working remotely. Conversations that may have taken place around a water cooler may now be reduced to writing, whether via text message, email or even messages exchanged within a video conferencing platform.
For some, remote working comes with a sense of nonchalance. A home-office and ”casual everyday” may cause employees to neglect appropriate levels of professionalism while conducting business. Another layer of challenge may arise when emails are interpreted by the reader in a way that wasn’t intended. Without the eyeball-to-eyeball indicators related to a conversation, i.e. body language, tone, etc., a reader may interpret the contents of an email as harassment. Similarly, jokes may not come across as funny, sarcasm may not be received as such, and friendly banter may appear unfriendly.
An employer may benefit by reading through their workplace harassment policy to ensure the language is written to cover the new reality of their working environments. A quick email reminder to remote workers, reminding them to treat all communication during remote work as they would any other workplace communication is another good idea. As COVID-19 itself was unforeseeable, it stands to reason that current company policy and trainings may not contemplate such an unprecedented global event.