Supporting Employees who Support a Mask Order in Public Buildings

Statewide mask orders are increasing, and some counties and municipalities are issuing mask orders. Arizona and Utah have orders in certain areas, and Governor Polis issued a mask order for all of Colorado at midnight on July 17th. This effort is likely to increase as public health officials find that this is an effective means to protect people from the virus.

At the same time, there are members of the public who are citizens of municipalities, patrons of libraries, and residents of fire protection districts, clearly stating that they do not wish to wear masks. There have been numerous reports of customers at business establishments harassing employees who ask that they wear a mask.

If you are a public sector employer who is requiring those entering your building to wear a mask, how do you support employees in this effort?  Here are 5 tips:

  • Place plenty of signage in your building about what the rules are. This helps to create room for anyone in the building, be they an employee or not, to point to the sign. This helps to enforce peer pressure.
  • Have masks handy for those who come in who do not have one and clearly mark the area where they can get a mask.
  • Train employees on de-escalation techniques. Examples include talking to visitors in a calm voice, using eye contact, and asking the name of the visitor.
  • If a visitor to the public building is not treating an employee well, make sure there is someone readily available to handle the altercation. This should be someone trained in de-escalation and who has the authority to make a decision on how to proceed.
  • If there is the threat of violence, or if someone is refusing to leave the building, contact law enforcement immediately, and make sure all employees know how to do this.

As we continue through this difficult time, remember that supporting employees includes training, continual reminders, patience, and empathy to help them continue your organization’s mission of public service.