Since Covid-19, there has been a major increase in the number of online platforms being used as people isolate and work from home. Approximately half the UK working population were, by definition, lone workers at home after 23rd March 2020.

Concerningly, a pilot study conducted by Suzy Lamplugh Trust has found that this has prompted an escalation in cyber abuse. Key findings highlighted that a startling one third of participants are currently experiencing online abuse at work. Of these victims, 83% state that the abuse has escalated over the period of the pandemic. Furthermore, the study finds major gaps in employers' provision of personal safety support for lone workers while online.

Online abuse can have detrimental effects on the victim. Among the victims of online abuse within our pilot study, 92% reported that this impacted their mental health. Dr Emma Short, Associate Professor in Psychology at DeMontfort University, has been researching the nature and impact of online abuse for 15 years. She states that: "It's been established that harm arising from online or abusive communications can be overwhelming, including significant emotional distress, feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression, sometimes initiating physiological harms such as self-harm or suicide. At the current time if people are restricted to working through digital channels which have become hostile, the sense of 'no escape' is amplified. [...]"

To hear Dr Emma Short discuss the impact of cyber abuse at work in further detail, listen to our podcast here

The findings set out in this report demonstrate the clear escalation of online harms and the increasingly blurred lines between work and home life as a result of the pandemic. The report highlights guidance for employers and employees (see below) to improve their safety online, as well as outlining what actions platforms can take to better protect users.


The Employee: Advice to be Cyber Safe at Work

Believe in your instincts. If something makes you feel uncomfortable, take a moment to explore any potential risks to your personal safety.

Engage with the online safety policy of your employer if they have one. It is your right to request changes to this if deemed necessary (e.g. if out of date). You can also request a risk assessment, education and training, supervision and support with personal safety incidents.

Check your online privacy settings. Don’t share your passwords with anyone. Turn on two-factor authentication and change passwords regularly. Make sure all your social media accounts are set to private. Try Googling yourself and see if your address (e.g., phone number or places where you regularly spend time are publicly available. There is further advice at Get Safe Online.

Your personal information (such as address, telephone number, daily routines or personal online accounts) should not be shared with anyone online unless completely necessary, e.g. HR might hold your emergency contact details, but these should remain confidential.

Behaviours should be documented. Keep a copy of all instances of online abuse. Devices and applications are likely to hold evidence. Moreover, social media, email, telecommunications providers and all online account providers store data on activity, log-ins and end user identifiers (such as IP address). If you use iCloud, Google, another cloud storage provider or an external hard drive these could also all be good places to search for evidence. This will be useful if the behaviour escalates or if the perpetrator deletes their posts and profiles. It can also be requested by the police as part of a live investigation.

Ensure anti- virus and anti-spyware software is installed. Make sure it is up to date.

Report the incident:

  1. To the police. Report the abuse early either directly or through a report service such as If you feel there is an immediate threat to your personal safety dial 999. Get further advice by contacting the National Stalking Helpline.
  2. To the platform through which the behaviour is being perpetrated. All platforms should have procedures in place for this. If you do not get an adequate response from the platform report it to Report Harmful Content.
  3. To your employer (if appropriate). Check the personal safety policy at your place of work and follow the incident reporting procedure. If your employer does not have one, request it.

If Someone has hacked your computer, or has access to what you are doing on your computer, report it to your manager or IT support through a different account for advice. For further advice contact The Cyber Helpline.

Avoid leaving your devices unprotected. Controlling physical access to your devices is key. When in the workplace, ensure your computer screen is locked, phone is PIN protected and ID documents are not accessible.

The Fault is not yours. Perpetrators of online abuse at work can be people you know (such as colleagues or managers) or strangers (customers/patients/service users). Speak to someone close to you about the abuse and contact a specialist victim support charity if you want expert advice.

Emotional responses are normal. It is common to feel your mental health has been affected by this behaviour. If you need emotional support, do not hesitate to contact your GP or Mind.


Download the full report here: Cyber Safety at Work 


For advice on any aspect of the report please contact Suzy Lamplugh Trust at [email protected] / tel. 0207 091 0014

Otherwise authors of the report, representatives of Suzy Lamplugh Trust, and supporters are available for media comment by arrangement, please contact [email protected] / tel. 07747611308