Though it may seem that workplace harassment cases are on a rise, that’s not really true. They have been happening for a long time. In the absence of an internal system, women are now seeking help outside. They know they have the support and their voice is being heard.
Though we are constantly trying hard to make sure women get the support they need, here are a few ways to address and prevent workplace harassment:
1) Create Awareness
Creating awareness about safety is crucial at any workplace. Conducting sessions is a great way to spread awareness. Organizations can also educate people in other ways, maybe a small skit highlighting important points. Men and women both need to learn what’s acceptable behaviour and what isn’t. For men, this teaches them right from wrong. If a certain thing or behavior classifies as inappropriate, it would hopefully deter them from doing so.
For women, this would make them realise if anything they’ve been experiencing is objectionable. This would also help them in the future. If fortunately, they haven’t experienced sexual harassment in any way, they would be equipped with the knowledge to handle any improper behaviour in the future.
There are many ways to spread awareness apart from policies, plays, and speeches. Interactive discussions would have a greater influence on people. When they feel involved and have the chance to ask questions, clear doubts, and watch others get involved, it makes people feel they are a part of it. You can discuss the different types of workplace harassment, use examples to explain it better, and talk about prevention measures. You can also inform your employees about ways to help if they see someone being a victim of inappropriate behaviour. An anonymous platform, like a whistleblower policy, to submit incidents is also helpful.
2) Strict Sexual Harassment Policy
Even in the absence of an HR department, what shouldn’t be missing is a strict sexual harassment policy. There’s an abundance of workplace harassment policies online. All you need to do is look for it. Refer to those and make your own with the guidance of relevant people. Or simply pick one up from the ones available.
This policy should be circulated among all employees regularly. If not HR, then managers or the founders can send this to their team at regular intervals like once a month or so that it’s not forgotten. Along with these policies, sending out different ways to reach out the HR or relevant POC will also help motivate most to speak out.
3) Internal Complaints Committee
Organizations must set up a team with an intent to preserve women’s safety at the office. This panel must include a woman working at a senior position. Complaint and redressal mechanisms must be established to ensure every complaint received is acknowledged. The panel must also make it very clear that every incident and its details will be properly documented for future reference. These documentations will also be registered under respective employee records. Proper actions must be taken so such incidents don’t repeat. This team can send out the workplace harassment policy as reminders. Should an incident occur, it must be immediately taken care of and weekly reminders should be sent to inform employees of the consequences of such actions.
4) Go The Extra Mile
A small step that organizations can take is to distribute pepper spray for safety to all the female employees in the company. This would not only be of use inside the office, but also outside. While this is a great step, it must be noted that these pepper sprays can also be misused. Maybe as a prank, maybe while just playing around. It must be communicated to all employees that severe actions will be taken in case the pepper sprays are used for anything other than self defense.
Another outstanding initiative that organizations can introduce is self defense training. Just like companies these days have gyms for working out, yoga, and to conduct other relaxation techniques, self defense too should be promoted. It gives you a sense of strength and courage to stand up for yourself in situations. Having the mindset that you can defend yourself is a great confidence booster for women while they are out. Presence of mind upon experiencing women harassment is what will immensely assist you in getting out of it.
5) Create An Entrepreneurial Spirit Among Women
An ecosystem that encourages entrepreneurship amongst women is well appreciated. The ratio of female to male entrepreneurs is very low. There’s a vast difference in the numbers. Encouraging women in the workplace to be in charge and take up complete responsibility of projects is a major confidence boost. It is observed and said by many working women that they were not given the chance they deserve and were discriminated against. It is discouraging to hear and even worse when experienced. Women need to be encouraged and motivated to move up the ladder. Moreover, when they have the courage, they need to be supported. After, all we have enough examples of women achievers whom we’ve idolised growing up.
6) Other Benefits
Added benefits like flexible work timings, monthly days offs, etc can make your’s a Happy Workplace. Allowing employees the comfort of working from home as an option is another small but impactful benefit. On days when they’re not in a state to reach office, or need a mental health day, working from home can majorly help without them worrying about losing their leave balance. These are just a few of benefits organizations can implement. There’s a wide array of options employers can choose from in terms of offering benefits. One of them is providing paid period leaves. It’s being observed that companies globally are providing menstrual leaves to women employees. The excruciating discomfort faced by women is being addressed and more and more companies are taking it upon themselves to provide utmost care in the form of paid leaves.
The above points are inclusive of but not limited to the things employers can do to make the workplace safe for women and prevent workplace harassment. If there are other ways you know, please leave a comment below!