As states and municipalities reopen more, businesses are reviving in-person operations leaving employers to confront myriad state and local requirements, industry-specific guidelines, and commonsense health practices to operate a business in a post-COVID-19 world, according to Law360.
A thorough return-to-work strategy addresses at least one aspect of health and safety other than the illness itself: the increased potential for incidents of workplace violence due to the stresses and tensions caused by the virus.
In the midst of COVID-19 and business reopenings, there is no shortage of news stories recounting workplace violence against retail employees by customers, often over mask-wearing guidelines. There are reports of customers throwing objects or spitting on employees and, in a few worst cases, shooting and killing employees who were simply trying to enforce mask-wearing rules.
Aware of the excess stress on employees and potential threat to their safety, some retail employers have created specific positions for employees trained in conflict de-escalation skills to interact with mask-reluctant customers.
Employers must not neglect another perhaps overlooked workplace hazard: tense COVID-19-related interactions between co-workers and managers, which could serve as fodder for possible workplace violence.
A recent Wall Street Journal article reports there are employees experiencing such frustrations but not even speaking up, fearing negative repercussions from their co-workers or their employers.
Clearly written policies and procedures that address workplace violence prevention and retaliation concerns and proper employee training, together with empathetic and ongoing communications from management, will serve to diffuse interpersonal frictions and foster an environment of open communication and understanding where employees are comfortable, supported and safe.