As soon as Dallas mandated its "Shelter in Place" policy, we all moved to working from home indefinitely. I am the first to say this transition has not been easy. But we take it seriously. My wife, and Work Shield co-founder, Jennifer, has Lupus, an auto-immune disorder, so we have to be especially careful. Which translates to not leaving the house. Basically at all. Thank goodness for digital communications, technology, and grocery deliveries (and wine deliveries!).
Besides our regularly-operating business efforts, I have been fielding LOTS of questions from clients and businesses who are trying to navigate this new normal (check back in a few days for a list of the most common questions and answers). These conversations have shown me that it's especially hard to maintain certain levels of professionalism while we are working at home for weeks on end, bouncing from kids to work to dogs and back again, and doing it all in our workout gear and pajamas.
With our professional guards down, the lines between personal and professional begin to blur (even more so than with our standard 24/7 digital communication capabilities). The risk of inappropriate behaviors is heightening. Offensive questions and questionable comments begin to trickle into team messages. Co-workers who are also caring for and teaching their children begin to be excluded because they can't respond quickly enough. The list goes on.
A study by the Pew Research Center found that 41 percent of American adults have been the subject of some type of harassment online. Even more staggering, one in five people have experienced extreme forms of digital harassment, including online sexual harassment.
As employers, it's critical to communicate that the rules still apply! Certain levels of conduct and respect must be maintained while working from home - especially in the midst of a pandemic.
We should also be wary of what we are writing to one another - never has it been more important to carefully choose our words when distance will inevitably lead to miscommunications and misunderstandings.
Most importantly, we must maintain positive and open cultures that engender trust - tell employees that they have a voice! Even if they are working remotely, any harassment or discrimination they experience from a co-worker, manager or independent contractor should be reported. Remind them that you want them to report any bad behavior - and that Work Shield is still here and ready to listen, investigate and help solve any harassment or discrimination that happens while working from home or otherwise. You can even send them the following as a reminder --
We partner with Work Shield, an independent third party, so you can be certain there will be no retaliation when reporting an incident
Every incident is a top priority and is taken seriously
Work Shield conducts every investigation without bias
Work Shield will provide a quick resolution to incidents
Let's work together to keep our workplaces safe and healthy spaces wherever they may be!
If you're looking for even more information about the potential outlying risks posed when working from home, check out this insightful article from Business Insurance.