This tech could be the key to preventing sexual harassment at work

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Moya Lothian-McLean
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Virtual reality can do a lot more than simply bring your favourite game to life – one firm thinks it can also be used to tackle workplace sexual harassment.

Question: How do you tackle sexual harassment at work – especially if it’s not overt?

Answer: With the same tech that’s brought the gaming world the likes of Oculus Rift.

Virtual reality training courses are now being used to teach employees how to identify and react to inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. It’s an attempt to use technology to tap into nuanced situations that are not always easy to spot and prepare individuals to be confident in confronting uncomfortable incidents when they occur.

“There is no better way to explain a feeling than to really immerse somebody in a situation,” Morgan Mercer, founder of San Francisio VR training firm Vantage Point, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation

“People work in environments where colleagues hang out, get drinks and are friends, so it is about teaching them how to identify when somebody is uncomfortable, what is appropriate and what is not and what actions can be taken.”

“Often things can be nipped in the bud before they progress up to HR (human resources),” she added. 

Women were happier than their male counterparts at work in 2018

The training of the sort offered by Vantage Point – which was started by Mercer after she suffered episodes of sexual violence – places participants virtually in typical workplace scenarios like a meeting. 

Within the simulation, they are then exposed to hypothetical examples of harassment – a leering comment on someone’s attire, an inappropriate touch – and supported with their responses.

Staff can be trained in three immersive models: learning how to identify sexual harassment, being educated in how to intervene if you witness harassment happening and, finally, instruction on how to respond if you’re on the receiving end of the behaviour.

Over 62% of women under 30 in the UK have experienced sexual harassment, a study found earlier this year – and in 90% of cases, a male perpetrator was responsible. 

It’s the kind of statistic that virtual reality sexual harassment training is hoping to make obsolete, thanks to high retention rates of education delivered via the technology. Whereas e-learning resources completed on desktops, such as a Powerpoint, have a 79% information retention rate, VR training boasts a 90% chance of storing and applying the lessons learned. 

VR creators in the UK: we’re waiting… 

Images: Getty/Rawpixel