EVERFI Content Team

Top Trends in Workplace Risks

Risks that are most prevalent in American workplaces change over time. During the Industrial Revolution and into the twentieth century, lax or non-existent safety standards led to countless workplace accidents. Today, safety standards have improved considerably, greatly reducing the risk of physical harm from doing everyday work tasks.

Risks to employees and businesses are now taking new forms. For example, many of today’s risks are intimately linked to a decidedly post-industrial technology: the internet.

In addition, the stress of the modern world, including social upheaval and pandemics, make workplace violence an ever-present concern for millions of workers.

Let’s consider three areas of risk that are top of mind for many employers in today’s workplace.

Workplace Violence

While mass shootings are easily some of the most well-publicized and tragic examples of workplace violence, they are only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, the numbers on workplace violence in the United States are truly shocking.

In 2020, workplace assaults resulted in 20,050 injuries and 392 fatalities in the US. Workplace violence is so prevalent that workplace assaults represent the fifth leading cause of death in the workplace.

While millions of Americans continue to work remotely, workplace violence is a growing problem that has invaded the online world as well. While physical violence is obviously not possible through the ether, threats of violence and cyber stalking certainly are.

Digital Harassment

Speaking of online threats of violence and cyber stalking, the next prominent risky workplace behavior we’ll discuss is digital harassment. Again, regardless of whether or not employees are physically in the office, the digital infrastructure that ties us all so closely together allows bad actors to do a great deal of harm, even remotely.

Digital harassment could involve threats of violence, as discussed above; or it could also take the form of sexual harassment or discrimination based on factors like race, sexuality, gender, disability, and religion, among others.

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Employee Social Media Use

A third area of risk we’ll cover in this post is employee social media use, particularly in this time of employee activism. There’s nothing inherently wrong with either of these activities of course, and in some cases the activity may be protected by law or policy. Many organizations also appreciate it when employees share positive company news or great work experiences online.

But certain forms of employee social media use can be risky—and potentially harmful to the employee’s organization.

Here are some examples of employee social media activity that could impact an employer’s operations or brand, or expose the company to legal risk—particularly when individuals identify themselves as company employees as a part of their posts or purport to speak on behalf of the company:

  • Endorsing or disparaging political candidates or officials
  • Criticizing customers, vendors, suppliers, investors, etc.
  • Harassing or bullying colleagues
  • Expressing extreme personal views
  • Disclosing confidential company information
  • Signing online petitions about issues

In an earlier time, the risks of the workplace frequently involved the risk of serious physical injury and death. Today, physical injury and death are still a problem, but they may come from violence committed by coworkers, customers, and others rather than the operation of dangerous machinery. Additionally, the communication technologies that closely link us together can create their own challenges, enabling harm via digital channels—and employee social media use can link an organization to the controversial statements and actions of its employees.

The current state of the workforce and the new risks that are emerging require continued vigilance, ongoing communication, and regular training to ensure employees understand the organization’s compliance obligations and desired culture, and how their actions—and inaction—can contribute to or detract from that culture. The top trends for HR and Compliance leaders in workplace risks