Implications of Domestic Violence for Corporate Security in the COVID-19 Era

  • Work-from-home has become the new norm for most companies, which is driving a number of new challenges for corporate teams.
  • Isolating measures from quarantine have led to family violence as a result of several factors, including economic stress, increased exposure to abusive relationships, and limited supportive resources. 
  • Corporate security teams need to prioritize this issue to ensure the safety, security, and success of their employees and organizations. 

Domestic violence is becoming a growing concern for corporations as more and more employees work remotely. According to several research studies (including In Homeland Security, 2020), domestic violence is thought to have increased by 20% during the COVID-19 pandemic. This statistic not only impacts family relationships but extends to social networks and economic success within the workplace. With this in mind, it is critical for corporate employers to take actionable steps to create a safe work-from-home environment for their employees. This foundation will lead to continued, and even increased, economic growth.

“More than one-third of the entire population of the world [has] been under some [stay-at-home] restriction” since May 2020 (Journal of Family Violence). These stay-at-home orders have restricted mobility, making work from home the new norm. For context, research from the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research shows that “before COVID-19, 5% of work days were spent at home, [whereas] during the pandemic, this increased eightfold to 40 percent a day.” As adults continue to work from home, families are forced to spend more time together in an isolated environment, leading to a pattern of unwanted domestic violence and child abuse in households that previously had unhealthy domestic environments. 

Family Violence and Implications for Social Networks and Economic Success

Family violence can be defined as “threatening or violent behaviors within families that may be physical, sexual, psychological, or economic, and can include child abuse and intimate partner violence.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, several factors have contributed to this pattern of family violence, including economic stress, job loss, increased exposure to abusive relationships, and limited opportunities for support. Many times, these factors are accompanied by increased substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and stress — all of which trigger violent behavior within the household. While stay-at-home restrictions and work-from-home orders are encouraged, they may be the root cause of increased family violence. 

The effects of family violence extend outside of the household. More specifically, an increase in domestic violence has an impact on the victims’ relationships with others, including friends, neighbors, children, extended family, and coworkers. While research from the Journal of Family Violence shows that coworkers’ support is extremely important for victims of domestic violence, work-from-home orders have negatively impacted people’s social circles and prevented victims from seeing support teams. In addition, because most victims do not have access to in-person support systems, there has been an influx in domestic violence helpline calls. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported a “10-50% increase in domestic violence helpline calls” in several countries. Thus, as more victims lack access to in-person support systems, domestic violence affects not only relationships but also businesses and the success of the economy overall. 

Impact of Domestic Violence on Corporations

In addition to social networks and economic outcomes, domestic violence has a negative impact on employers and corporate success. A victim of domestic violence will likely experience one of the following: “inability to concentrate, low morale, and increased health care costs” (Security Solutions for Enabling and Assuring Business, 2020).

When a victim experiences domestic violence in the workplace, abusers will harass them by using several methods, including excessive phone calls and emails, trying to get the victim fired, waiting for the victim outside of the office, or charming the victim’s coworker and turning them against her. In many cases, scenarios like these lead to higher absentee and tardiness rates, and an overall reduction in productivity (and a decrease in company revenue). In other words, when a corporation ignores domestic violence there are significant costs. If this pattern continues in the work-from-home environment, it can become a serious problem for corporations in the future – likely carrying over to the victim’s workplace. Therefore, it is important for employers and corporate security teams to take proactive measures now before an increase in domestic violence transforms into an increase in stalking, harassment, and violence in the workplace.

Steps to Make Things Right: Corporate Security Solutions for Domestic Violence

It is an employer’s legal responsibility to provide a safe place to work for their employees (especially employers that enforce the work-from-home policy). To mitigate the effects of domestic violence, employers and corporate security teams should focus on several tasks:

They should educate their employees on how to identify victims of domestic violence by observing and documenting signs such as depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and neurological damage, hearing loss, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and PTSD.

Corporations should screen calls and visitors to ensure that their employees will not be victims of violence. If an employee has a past or current abuser, they can provide a picture to the security team or have a code word for if/when the abuser enters the building.

Employers should encourage their employees to contact supervisors, human resources (HR), or corporate security members about questions or concerns related to domestic violence. These policies, among others, are an important step for reducing domestic violence and ensuring corporate success. 

Select Citations:

Bloom, Nicholas. “How working from home works out.” Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, 2020.
Duda, Roberta A. “Workplace Domestic Violence Intervention Through Program and Policy Development.” AAOHN Journal, vol. 45, no. 12, 1997.
Sadulski, Jarrod. “Domestic Violence, the ‘Shadow Pandemic,’ Grows during Coronavirus.” In Homeland Security, 2020.
Sharma A., Borah, S. “Covid-19 and Domestic Violence: an Indirect Path to Social and Economic Crisis.” Journal of Family Violence, 2020.

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