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Enforcing mask compliance adds burden to already-stressed workers, expert says

Face mask sign
Photo: richard johnson/iStockphoto

Cincinnati — Workers tasked with enforcing mask compliance can experience feelings of stress and anxiety on top of what’s already generated by their regular duties, cautions an expert at the University of Cincinnati.

Erica Birkley, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience in the UC College of Medicine, notes that these feelings can be even more amplified among workers whose jobs are already stressful, such as first responders and those in health care and retail.

“With first responders being masked and the people they’re interacting with being masked as well, as much as they can adhering to social distancing, it can add an increased layer of complexity to their job to maintain safety for their team but also the safety of the public by having to remind people to wear a mask,” Birkley said in a press release.


When retail workers have to deal with a customer who becomes angry or verbally aggressive after being asked to wear a mask in the store, Birkley recommends acknowledging the person’s frustration and then trying to find common ground so the interaction becomes collaborative.

“Validate for most of us this is difficult and that your intention is not to make them more upset or to increase the burden on their day,” Birkley said.

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