SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio — It’s no secret that post-COVID-19 life has taken a toll on all of us.
“A lot more aggression and violence, protests, destruction, differences of opinion, and then you got to also add into that mix COVID, which contained people, restricted them,” said Tim Dimoff, a national security expert and business consultant based in Summit County.
But now as we emerge from our homes and, for many, back into our workplaces, employers are dealing with an alarming trend.
“Companies are coming to us and asking us ‘Can you help us with this transition, during the transition, when we do encounter negative, violent, aggressive people?’” said Dimoff.
Dimoff said 10 years ago he would get around three calls a year from employers asking how to handle workplace aggression, but since COVID-19 that number has skyrocketed.
“We are now averaging seven of those types of calls a month,” he said. “It’s a tremendous demand on us right now.”
But Dimoff said what’s more alarming is how fast the aggressive behavior is escalating, saying that just last week a business in Northeast Ohio had a coworker pull a gun on another coworker.
“Here's an employee that brought a gun to work, showed it, used it as an intimidation factor and became very close to using it,” he said.
Joanna Mannon from the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Lake County said she is also dealing with more patients who struggle with their workloads and work environments.
“People who have never experienced a mental health condition before now are having some symptoms of maybe episodic depression or episodic anxiety,” said Mannon. “Something that anxiety does is it causes us to not be able to pay attention as well and perform at a high capacity or the highest capacity that we would normally perform at, and so job performance may be affected as well as relationships within the job.”
She said if you’re feeling anxious, depressed or irritable, it’s important to find a healthy outlet and release of those feelings.
“I think it's important for folks to kind of arm themselves with something that works for them, whether it be a deep breathing exercise or a relaxation technique,” said Mannon.
She also encourages employers to harbor an environment where employees can have open conversations about their mental health.
“Creating a space where your employee feels comfortable coming to you saying, ‘I feel super anxious, I'm going to need a 5-minute walk outside,’ and you understanding that if you allow for that 5minutes, you're going to get 7 hours and 55 minutes of good, hard work out of that person instead of them struggling for most of the day,” she said.
Dimoff said there’s different needs for different companies, but across the board, they’re all asking for similar services.
“By far, diffusing and dealing with difficult people and active shooter recognition, prevention and response. Those are our two largest demands right now,” said Dimoff.
And while it will take time to adjust to our old way of life, he’s worried that in the meantime, we will see an uptick in workplace violence.
“With everybody now just coming back and entering back into society in the workplace, we will experience a lot more negative. On the opposite end, if a company's proactive, they are not going to be the ones to have these incidents take place at their locations.”
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The PEER Center Warm Line
(614) 358-TALK (8255), 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Disaster Distress Helpline
1-800-985-5990 (1-800-846-8517 TTY)
Ohio Crisis Text Line
Text the keyword “4HOPE” to 741 741
Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services help line
1-877-275-6364 (to find resources in your community)
Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services COVID-19 resources: Click here.