Workplace violence has been on the rise in recent years. This trend reflects both a more violent society generally and the unique disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many organizations are facing novel security challenges because their “new normal” often means remote and hybrid workforces. The factors implicated in the rising violence and the challenges presented by fluid workforces are discussed in greater detail in our last article focused on the changing landscape of workplace violence.
But the good news is that there are concrete and impactful steps employers can take to combat the rising trend in workplace violence. In our experience, a combination of the following three strategies, tailored to your organization’s specific needs, creates a significantly more secure workplace. These strategies not only reduce the chances of a catastrophic incident but also increase workforce well-being and productivity by providing a safer and more comfortable environment for everyone.
As the traditional ways of working are replaced with more remote and hybrid arrangements, employers need to take into account a broader array of hazards in their security planning.
It is no longer enough to just think about common hazards in the workplace—like, unsecured entryways, insufficient lighting, or unreachable egress routes. Now, in addition to reassessing new hazards created by reduced or changed workforces at the office, employers must think about the safety of their employees when they are working remotely and when they are traveling for work.
For example, are employees more vulnerable to workplace violence when working from their home or another remote location because they are not protected by the safety measures of their traditional workplace?
And what impact does the enormous increase in meeting by video mean for safety? Suppose an employee gets into a verbal altercation with a coworker on a videoconference, and the coworker makes a gun visible during the argument, is there a greater real—or perceived—threat to the employee? Can the situation be de-escalated as effectively as if the argument were to take place in a physical location where the individuals are surrounded by other people?
Additionally, when employees videoconference from home, they often broadcast more than they potentially mean to. They may show their colleagues—and clients or vendors—some of their valuable possessions as well as the layout of their dwelling. What happens if an employee inadvertently displays a super-expensive TV in the background and casually mentions that he’s going to a client site for two weeks, only to have his place broken into when he’s away?
These are all examples of hazards that were not commonplace before our shift to remote and hybrid work but are now part of our everyday reality. A thorough evaluation of the true risks and hazards your organization currently faces is the best precursor to creating a realistic and effective security plan.
To be effective, policies must anticipate the likely threats, risks, and hazards your workforce faces today. Many employers find that they need to update, revise, or create completely new policies to address the current environment.
For example, with the rise of open carry laws in many states—and the increase in gun-related violence—it may be necessary to put in place a weapons policy. Other policies that may need to be updated in view of our ever-growing reliance on virtual communications include those addressing harassment and cybersecurity.
A large part of the responsibility for maintaining a safe workplace falls on the employees themselves, especially as the workforce becomes more geographically dispersed. Therefore, it is imperative that your security policies include mandatory safety and security training tailored to the likely scenarios your employees may face. Common training includes:
Another critical component to include in safety and security policies is the requirement to report incidents, hazards, threats, and other unsafe conditions and situations. Ideally, employees should have an opportunity to report these issues anonymously to prevent any chilling effect from fear or discomfort of reporting. Policies should also include specific processes for dealing with received reports, including how to address the reported issues and how to communicate them to the workforce. Creating an effective and prompt feedback loop will not only reduce risks but promote employee trust and willingness to cooperate with the organization’s safety and security measures.
To understand whether your security policies and procedures are working, it is imperative to maintain up-to-date records and review the data on a regular basis for potential tweaks and revisions. Creating a standardized process for recording incidents and hazards will make recordkeeping and evaluation easier.
It is important to make sure that any changes in policies, mandatory training, and other safety and security processes are recorded, too. This information will allow you to better isolate the impact of any specific change, so you can make an educated decision about whether a particular policy or procedure should be kept or whether a different approach should be considered.
If you would like to discuss implementing any of the strategies discussed above in your business, reach out to Daniel Pascale, CPP, CEO of COSECURE, and a board-certified security and emergency management professional with over 25 years of experience in the field.
Daniel Pascale is a board-certified security and emergency management professional, with more than 25 years of experience as a practitioner, consultant, instructor, trainer, keynote speaker, author, and volunteer leader. As CEO of COSECURE, Dan is responsible for setting the overall strategic consulting and business development strategies including lateral acquisition and identification of emerging markets. Dan manages a team of security professionals, former federal, state and local law enforcement, military and emergency management officials with unparalleled skills in physical security, cybersecurity and compliance, emergency preparedness & business continuity. The COSECURE team tailors services to serve the largest of Fortune 100 companies, hospitals, universities, K-12 schools, and government entities, as well as small businesses and home offices.
COSECURE, an ancillary business unit of Cozen O'Connor, is a national consulting firm dedicated to building safer workplaces, communities, and schools through risk identification and mitigation. We tailor our services to meet the needs of our largest Fortune 100 companies, hospitals, universities, K-12 schools, and government entities as well as small businesses and home offices, bringing unmatched safety, security, and legal value and expertise to our partners so they can achieve more. Learn more about us →