Cautious optimism around a possible return to the office is far from universal according to a new study published by TimeTo which found 49% fear sexual harassment will increase as businesses return to offices next year.Undertaken by advertising thin tank Credos, on behalf of the Advertising Association (AA), NABS and WACL, the research points to concern that home working has exacerbated may have led some to lose sight of where the boundaries of appropriate behaviour lie.Readying itself for such an eventuality TimeTo team has updated its code of conduct and training programme to reflect the reality of a hybrid work environment.
No return to the ‘old normal’
While some semblance of normality is likely to return in due course, the precise form of that return to routine remains far from certain.
Of 1,250 British respondents quizzed for their views, widespread apprehension was recorded relating to ‘pent up‘ emotions built up over months of lockdown.
Acknowledging that social distancing measures are likely to translate into fewer instances of physical harassment, the report considers the pessimist‘s side of the coin – in that fewer staff may make individuals more vulnerable.
Such concerns are compounded by the fact that a third of respondents were unsure of their employer‘s stance toward sexual harassment.
Stepping into the breac,h TimeTo will offer a range of training courses designed to bridge such gaps in knowledge, arming participants with an understanding of how sexual harassment may manifest itself when working remotely or in a hybrid environment.
TimeTo has also modernised its code of conduct to include guidance for employers and employees switching to virtual and hybrid working.
TimeTo has also reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring that any ‘new normal‘ does not include any form of harassment.
A problem that hasn’t just ‘gone away’
Warning that the pandemic has merely hidden entrenched issues, not resolved them, Lucky Generals founder and TimeTo steering group member Helen Calcraft said: “Just because the people who perpetrate sexual harassment have been away for a while doesn’t mean the problem has gone away.
“This research shows that a lot of people in our industry are scared to come back to the office, and this is wrong. It also shows they want this issue tackled.“
Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, chipped in: “2020 has been a tumultuous year and we are determined that we make good on our collective ambition to build back better. This has to include a renewed approach to ensure our workplaces are ones that are safe and can be enjoyed by all, without any fear of sexual harassment.”