Working from home has provided a more inclusive environment for certain groups but experts warn this may have also led to a rise in workplace bullying. 

Research by Bupa shows that the number of employees who reported that they had experienced bullying has increased over the past three years across different industries, with rates almost doubling since 2019.

Over a quarter of employees (26 per cent) reported that they had experienced bullying over the last three years, compared to just one in seven (14 per cent) in 2019.

Specific sectors such as education and transport have experienced a surge in workplace bullying which the report attributes to an increased workload during the pandemic.

The retail industry was also similarly impacted with a third of staff (33 per cent) reporting being bullied while at work as uncertainty, job losses and the furlough scheme has negatively impacted employee morale and happiness.

In addition, workers aged over 45 are also more likely to report cases of bullying, as working practices are taken online for many.

Recent research also showed that the number of age discrimination claims has increased by three-quarters over the past year – showing this group has been particularly vulnerable to ageist practices over the last year.

Despite this, generally, the increase in homeworking has been beneficial, especially to working parents. Almost four-fifths of this group (78 per cent) report that it has given them more flexibility, which has been particularly important given the added responsibilities of childcare and home-schooling.

Women were also more likely to say that working from home has had a positive impact on their wellbeing (33 per cent).

This new form of working has also greatly benefited people with disabilities. Over two-thirds (68 per cent) report that working from home has removed accessibility issues previously faced when going to a physical workplace every day.

This has also come at a time where businesses have actively put more safeguarding processes in place to protect the wellbeing of their workers, including almost half (46 per cent) strengthening their wellbeing services and one in seven (14 per cent) introducing policies to ensure diversity and inclusion.

Mark Allan, Commercial Director, Bupa UK Insurance, emphasised the positive opportunities that could emerge from the pandemic:

For many businesses, there is now not just an opportunity for recovery, but for renewal. Success in a post-pandemic working world lies with the businesses who take forward the positive wellbeing steps that they have made over the last year, from greater flexibility to better inclusivity, whilst continuing to strive for a workplace that gets the best from all of their people.

However, Mr. Allan continued to warn employers about the increase in workplace bullying:

This ‘new normal’ has created increasingly complex social dynamics – which can prompt miscommunication, misinterpretation and isolation among employees.

There is no place for bullying or discrimination in any organisation, whether that’s hiding behind a screen or face to face. Employers have the same duty of care for their workers whether they’re in the office or at home. Therefore, creating a culture where employees feel able to speak up if they experience any problems is absolutely key.

*Bupa commissioned YouGov to poll 4,030 UK workers between 5th-25th February 2021. This has been outlined in Bupa’s Workplace Wellbeing Census.






Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.