The COVID-19 pandemic has created widespread fear, stress, and anxiety among the population, which has resulted in high levels of stigma. Stigma is a negative association between a person or a group of people who have certain characteristics associated with a perceived risk, in this case COVID-19. As an example, you may have an employee who follows all public health recommendations and feels negative emotions towards those who don’t (or vice versa). So how do you stop the stigma from infecting your workplace?
Stigma is fuelled by misinformation and fear, both of which have been prevalent during this pandemic. Various groups have been the target of this stigma, including people who test positive for COVID-19; have health conditions with symptoms similar to COVID-19; have come in contact with someone who has or had COVID-19; have recently travelled; come from or live in areas where outbreaks have occurred; work in industries with a high risk of exposure; or do not follow recommended public health measures.
The targets of stigma can experience it in many forms, including microaggressions, stereotyping, discrimination, verbal abuse, and physical violence. A study conducted by Statistics Canada found that 20% of Canadians were afraid of being harassed due to the perception they put others at risk of contracting COVID-19. In the workplace, employees who are members of targeted groups may face stigma from their co-workers or clients. To address this, employers need to take steps to reduce the stigma around COVID-19 by implementing policies and practices, providing training, and educating employees.
The World Health Organization reminds us that changing negative language can make a difference in how people perceive others in their video, “A guide to preventing and addressing social stigma associated with COVID-19.” But there is still more work to do! There are a few steps you can take to help reinforce tolerance, understanding, and a more positive culture overall. Download our FREE guide, Putting a STOP to COVID-19 Stigma, which discusses the impacts of stigma and changes you can make to help make a difference in your workplace.
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