Workplace violence is a growing concern for small and midsize businesses, with 34 percent reporting at least one serious threat or violent incident, according to a recent survey from HSB. And many (40 percent) worry that the stress of COVID-19 will make workplace violence even more likely.

The survey defined workplace violence as the threat of physical harm when there was the presence of a weapon, or the use of force that caused a serious physical injury to employees, executives or guests.

The HSB poll conducted by Zogby Analytics found that 31 percent of business representatives believe workplace violence is increasing, while 41 percent believe the consequences are becoming more severe, in terms of lower employee morale, retention, lost productivity, and lost sales and profits.

Nearly one-third (31 percent) of respondents are concerned that workplace violence could happen at their own company—and employees are concerned as well. In fact, 32 percent of the companies said employees had expressed fears about workplace violence; were concerned about security; or reported they felt threatened by customers, co-workers, visitors or the public during working hours.

Half of those surveyed said an employee of their company who made a threat at work would be terminated immediately. Others said offenders would be suspended, put on probation, reassigned, or referred to voluntary or mandatory counseling.

About the survey: Zogby Analytics surveyed 405 business decision-makers online for HSB about their experiences and attitudes on workplace violence. They included administrators for technology services, manufacturers, professional, legal and financial offices, restaurants, retailers, construction, nonprofits, and other organizations. The results were reported in November 2020.