For business, 2020 was a long experiment on working from home, and many employers and employees found a lot of benefits. Greater productivity, no commute, cheaper for both parties, and healthier, according to the New York Times.
But many tech workers say that leaving the office and being out from under the eye of the group has led to an increase in harassment based on gender, age, or race.
Three thousand tech workers around the country, all of them former office workers who have transitioned to remote work during the pandemic, were surveyed by job advocacy group Project Include. One in four of those surveyed said that they had experienced more gender-based harassment from their coworkers since going remote. The result was strongly intersectional, with higher percentages among women and nonbinary people of color, and highest (42%) among transgender people.
Ellen Pao, a tech investor and founder of Project Include, wanted to do the survey early in 2020, when people complained about an increase in workplace harassment without the workplace.
“There’s the assumption that once everybody went separately and you were protected in your own home, that you wouldn’t see the same level of harassment,” Pao said. “It turned out that actually wasn’t the case. … There’s more one-on-one interaction when you’re not in the office. People are seeing more harassment on chat and on email and on video conferencing.”
With the transition to remote work as sudden and massive as it was, many employers didn’t have time or resources to set up their own software tools, instead relying on existing tools, which may not have mitigation possibilities such as built-in flagging or reports.
Pao says her survey suggests that the increase in harassment and hostility may be due to more conversations without colleagues as witnesses, and a blurring of boundaries between what is appropriate at work and what should only be said in private.