Workplaces need to be more than just physically safe
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.