Aside from turning epidemiology into family dinner discussion and forcing millions into social distancing, COVID-19 has ushered in a new wave of anxiety. Your employees are worried about getting sick, taking care of loved ones – and the economy. Additionally, many employees are having to adjust to the new reality of working from home. We know from past experience that perpetrators of workplace violence typically experience multiple stressors that included debt, untreated mental health and relationships that resort to domestic violence. For those who may be experiencing personal stressors in the home, shelter-in-place orders create an even more volatile working environment.
Even if employees are exclusively remote – or have been temporarily laid off – it’s more important than ever to have an effective workplace violence prevention program. These programs provide critically connective support when coworkers feel isolated and anxious – and can be just as effective on a digital platform.
Workplace Violence Prevention in the Time of Coronavirus
When some people think of workplace violence prevention programs, they imagine acts of violence and punitive zero tolerance policies. But we stress to our clients that a properly developed and effectively implemented program creates an environment of trust, respect and courtesy – so when issues arise anywhere, including in the home, employees feel comfortable bringing them forward.
We are all going to struggle through this pandemic, some of us more than others. Your employees should understand that even in a remote environment they can and should come forward with concerns about their well-being or the well-being of a fellow coworker.
Training that Stands the Test of a Remote Workforce
Workplace violence prevention training should teach employees that they are the best line of defense in recognizing the potential warning signs of violence that are not necessarily a violation of zero tolerance policies. It does not matter if it is in the office, on a video-chat meeting or during a texting conversation with a coworker – it is possible to discern whether someone’s behavior may be a threat to themselves or others.
A good workplace violence prevention program also ensures that coworkers always feel like they can engage Human Resources, Corporate Security or whoever leads and is part of your violence prevention functions. There are several reasons that employees may be hesitant to bring their concerns forward – from fears of retaliation to skepticism of program effectiveness. These barriers can be exacerbated in a remote working world when employees may not feel as threatened by potential warning signs or may not be in direct contact lines of reporting.
Trust, Respect and Courtesy Goes Online
Many of the resources used in workplace violence prevention programs work just as effectively virtually as they do in a traditional workplace setting. Now is the time to review your program to make sure that the training principles and reporting procedures are just as effective virtually as they are when executed in person.
You may want to remind your employees about the benefits of your Employee Assistance Program (EAPs) if they are experiencing challenges. This way employees know that support is available even if they are not in a physical office.
If you haven’t deployed online workplace violence prevention training, now is a great time particularly if working from a home office limits your workforce’s productivity. There is no time like the present to teach or remind employees of how they play a role in workplace violence.