Workplaces need to be more than just physically safe

Front of a workplace building

Some time ago, I tweeted about an uncomfortable incident that occurred while I was walking to the train station from my office one afternoon.

As I was waiting to cross the road, I felt someone squeeze my upper arm several times from behind. I immediately assumed it was one of my colleagues because I was still relatively close to my office building. I was horrified and disgusted to see a man, perhaps not much older than me, move in front of me, turn his head towards me and wink and raise his eyebrows suggestively several times.

‘Do you mind?’ I glared at him.

He repeated the same action, winking again, this time raising his eyebrows more vigorously.

After he turned in the other direction, I struggled to finish my walk to the station without feeling frightened that this man was following me, or that someone else would try to do the same thing.

This is not how a woman – or anyone – should feel when they are walking the streets of their hometown in broad daylight.

The next morning I was in a panic as I rushed one foot in front of the other on my way to my office, still feeling frightened after the previous afternoon’s incident.

I got in the elevator to go up to my level. It was then I realised that I felt relieved and safe to be at work.

I felt safe to be at work in the company of people who would not touch me inappropriately or harass me.

I felt safe around people who would not give me looks because of my appearance.

I felt safe that I was around people I could trust.

This is what workplaces should be like. This is the first time in my career that I have genuinely felt safe at work, and safe around my colleagues. Many of us spend a large percentage of our lives in our offices or workplaces. We are around the same people every weekday. We see them all the time. Work is like our second home. This is why it is important to foster an environment where employees feel safe to work in.

Occupational Health and Safety regulations concern a safe and healthy work environment. Workplaces can prevent you from having large cartons fall on your head and cause injury. They can prevent you from becoming sick from an unhygienic environment. These regulations have great importance in fields such as agriculture, mining and healthcare. But given these examples, the definition of ‘safety’ only seems to concern my physical health and wellbeing. It does not consider my mental health, for example, from work-induced stress, or from another employee’s harassment.

I am very lucky to work at my current workplace where this kind of behaviour is not tolerated. It is important that companies have practices in place to prevent behaviour such as bullying or harassment.

A good working environment has a sexy Aeron chair and a standing desk and free snacks.

A better working environment has a sexy Aeron chair and a standing desk and free snacks, and also has employees who aren’t assholes.

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Comments on this post

I’m glad you’ve found a safe place in your workplace. I feel like the most important part of a job isn’t what you do or how much you make, but what your relationship with your coworkers are like. I’m currently working in an industry I never actually thought I’d enjoy or want to stick around in, but I like going to work every day because my coworkers make it a good place to be.

Wow. I’m sorry you had to experience that. Some men are just awful.

I had one incident where I was being harassed by a patient. He kept saying very inappropriate things that made me want to run away, but I couldn’t abandon the patient. I had to stay there and just take it. It was awful. I did not feel safe at all during my clinical and my instructor had the audacity to get made at me for being harassed. Fortunately, he didn’t touch me, but if he did, that would have been the last straw and someone would have gotten punched on the face.

I’m horrified to hear about that guy! I’ve had similar experiences with people on the streets and as I work in retail, I get that odd creep every once in a while. It’s not cool and always makes me feel very paranoid and uncomfortable – in the workplace too! I find that unacceptable. Whenever I feel uncomfortable with a customer now, I always ask a colleague to serve them for me instead and they always understand. It sucks that this happens to me in the workplace sometimes, when as you said it should feel safe.

I have the same feeling when I’m at university campus, I feel so much safer than anywhere else.

Sorry you had to go through that. There are alot of entitled pervs out there :/ Glad you’re safe!

I remember that post about that guy, what a jerk… what was the point of it? Did he expect you to drop to your knees and beg for a date? WTF.
Every woman deserves to feel safe on the STREETS, let alone at their workplaces. But yes, I agree with you. I’m glad that your workplace is a good one where you are respected 🙂

Unfortunately I’ve had some instances of sexual harrassment involving a man on my floor. My workmates contacted HR about it back in December because they were concerned. In a nutshell, he’d been making comments of a subtle sexual nature to me for a while, undertones. He’d call me ‘beautiful’, basically flirting with me but this guy is over 60… old enough to be my dad. He also looked at me once in such a predatory way it made me scared (my friend saw it and after that decided to report him). HR spoke to me, and they spoke to him separately as well and nothing more has happened. I hardly speak to this man anymore and he definitely avoids speaking to me. It’s the -entitled male culture- that makes me angry. HR told me that he reckoned what he said was ‘just a joke’ and that he did ‘nothing wrong’. He’s probably been sleazy like this all his life where it was more accepted and women didn’t bat an eyelid because they saw it as -normal- behaviour. He was probably upset that the ‘boy’s club’ mentality has been fractured. But anyway, I feel safer at work after HR got involved 🙂 At one point I was actively avoiding him and adrenaline would pump when I saw him :/ To feel safe at work is SO important.

My goodness. I am glad HR got involved and stopped that from happening. It’s interesting that you shared your experience, because I have been wanting to write about my similar harassment experiences at one of my old workplaces, I am just waiting for a ‘good time’. :/ Actually, in a nutshell, we did not have a solid HR department so it involved a lot of me going back and forth between people and being asked personal questions and blamed for the behaviour. I am glad that your workplace could sort out the issues for you. For me, unfortunately, I had no choice but to leave the company. 😞

That’s the one thing that scares me the most as I’ve been a victim of it at work, when I worked a long time ago, and the managers just didn’t do anything. I don’t have time for guys or even customers asking me out/ checking me out or making me feel uncomfortable. :/ I’m glad you were able to find a safe place in your workplace. No one should feel like that and I understand completely how you feel about it. I would go in detail over my situation, but it still creeps me out that my managers didn’t do anything but add to the frustration. I was glad to leave that job.

This speaks volumes to me, and I feel this needs to be stressed all over the place, because jobs I have had—a particular family I babysat for, Sonic, Walmart, a church nursery—haven’t felt safe. I felt like I needed to protect myself, but after venting to others, I’d be told, “That’s normal,” but…eh.

This gives me a new perspective, though. I’m glad your workplace is safe. ❤

Oh how awful! And these things happen all the time. I can’t believe some people think it’s perfectly ok to touch a complete stranger! I’m so glad you stood up for yourself though, most people wouldn’t have said anything. I hope this doesn’t happen to you again.

PS. Hope you’re well 🙂 It’s been a while since I’ve been on your blog!