5 Ways to Limit Aggression During COVID-19
COVID-19 has prompted employers to enact safety protocols, including limiting building capacity and requiring employees and customers to wear masks and practice social distancing. Although the intent of the safety protocols is to help reduce the spread of the disease, sometimes customers bristle at these rules, refuse to comply, or take out their frustration on employees. Here are five ways to help reduce and respond to this type of hostility.
#1: Set customer safety expectations
Advertise COVID-19-related policies and protocols on your business website or social media page and post safety signage in prominent locations, such as on entrance doors, lamp posts leading up to the facility, or parking areas. This can help set safety expectations in advance and demonstrate that your business is doing everything possible to ensure customer and employee safety. You should also train employees to enforce workplace safety rules and to follow your company's emergency response plan should a situation escalate.
#2: Install security systems
Where practical and allowed by law, consider installing security systems such as alarms, cameras, or panic buttons in the workplace. Some jurisdictions even require certain businesses, such as hotels, to provide panic buttons to their employees. Having surveillance cameras where allowed by law can also help ensure public safety and promote accountability. When installing security systems, comply with all applicable laws, and train appropriate personnel on how to properly use them.
#3: Create a response plan
The appropriate response to aggression will depend on the severity of the situation and may include reporting the incident to a supervisor on-duty, calling security, or calling 911. Also, identify safe areas for your employees to go to if they feel they're in danger.
#4: Train employees
Consider educating your employees on how to identify threats and how to de-escalate aggression. Train employees to monitor the situation, resolve manageable conflicts, and respond in a non-violent manner. This may include holding non-threatening eye contact, maintaining a calm demeanor, and avoiding threatening gestures, such as crossing arms or finger-pointing. If a severe threat exists, instruct employees to follow your established response plan.
#5: Offer options
Offer customers options to minimize contact with others and promote social distancing. If applicable, consider curbside pick-up, home delivery, or alternative hours. Other ways to promote convenience and maintain safety may include rearranging products or walkways to reduce crowding, or setting up exterior sanitizing stations equipped with hand sanitizer for customers to use before they enter.
Take appropriate steps to prevent and respond to hostile situations in the workplace. For more information, see CDC guidance on limiting workplace violence associated with COVID-19.