Technology and Workplace Violence

In this, final, post about workplace violence that was inspired by my recent mediator re-certification training, I will discuss another reality of life in the modern world, workplace violence involving employees who work remotely. Workplace violence is not limited to in person interactions; in fact, cyber violence is commonplace. The pandemic that began in early 2020 did not eliminate workplace violence, it merely changed the location where it occurs. One of the most noticeable forms of violence is, of course, domestic violence. In that many victims of domestic violence were locked down with their abusers during the initial months of the pandemic, reports of serious domestic violence increased. When a victim of domestic violence is working remotely and thus, unable to escape her/his abuser, there is a spillover effect that has an impact on this employee’s productivity, for example, when the abuser limits the victim’s access to technology. In addition, workplace violence between and among co-workers has not been eliminated. Stalking, for example, is easy to commit. All it takes is a few clicks on a computer, tablet, or cell phone to find out anyone’s home address, go to his/her home, and act upon any type of perceived workplace grievance. Employers who supervise remote workers must learn to recognize cues of online workplace violence and take strong steps to ensure all employees can exercise self determination at all times during the work day.

It is somewhat overwhelming to consider the lengths to which “bad actors,” a/k/a criminals, in some situations, will go to in order to attempt to bully, harass, or perpetrate violence.  We at Magnus, are somewhat sheltered in our work environment.  But, to consider the ramifications of remote working, telecommuting, etc. and how that pandemic forced a new reality exacerbates workplace and domestic violence is sobering.  I can only hope that corporate human resource departments are attuned to the issue and try to find ways to address the problem.  It would seem that training is important, as well as the development of hot lines, code words, etc., would be meaningful ways to address, or try to address, violence that might occur in those settings.  News accounts explain that part of the problem is too much togetherness.  Related to that, however, is that the abused person has no escape from the abuser when an employer requires her or him to work from home.  In other words, the pandemic, and the employer response, worsens a bad situation.  Employers need to consider this aspect in arranging otherwise “flexible” workplaces.  Such considerations require the business world to adapt to realities we would all rather never have to think about at all!

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