How Advanced Analytics Can Protect Retail Employees’ Mental Health

Mental health is a huge concern for retailers today. With increasing levels of retail crime and violence, the chances of a retail employee suffering from PTSD or other mental health issues as a result of events they’ve witnessed on the job might be higher than ever.

“Retail workers are on the frontlines of customer interaction, and that can sometimes mean dealing with angry or abusive customers,” said Kevin Darnell, senior business development manager for Hanwha Vision America. “This can be very stressful and upsetting, and can lead to anxiety, depression, and even PTSD.”

Darnell points to a confluence of factors that can create a perfect storm for mental health issues in retail:

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  • Increased Violence: Retail workers are facing more aggressive or violent customers than ever before. These incidents can be incredibly traumatic, and the constant threat of violence can cause hypervigilance and anxiety—symptoms commonly associated with PTSD.
  • Stressful Work Environment: The combination of understaffing, high turnover, and long hours can create a chronically stressful work environment. This constant pressure can lead to emotional exhaustion, a key factor in PTSD development.
  • Repeated Exposure to Traumatic Events: Even if not all interactions are violent, constantly dealing with angry or abusive customers can take a toll. The repetitive nature of these experiences can contribute to cumulative trauma, another factor linked to PTSD.

“We’re seeing more retail employees are filing claims for PTSD,” said Jason Swanson, a new addition to Hanwha’s business development team with decades of experience working in loss prevention. “Workplace violence is a big challenge and a scary one. This is an issue that everybody is aware of, and Hanwha is aware as well, and we are here to help provide solutions to make it better for everybody. People traditionally think about the solutions that companies like Hanwha provide as being there for security and catching bad guys, but they’re really a holistic solution that makes the business better, and part of making the business better is making employees feel safe so they can provide great service to the customer.”

To help reduce the pressure and stress levels of store employees, Hanwha Vision has combined artificial intelligence with many of its IP surveillance technologies. Retail store employees already have enough to manage without having to react to every possible incident detected. Combining AI into video surveillance systems addresses this heightened need for more accurate AI-based detection of people, objects, and vehicles, leading to fewer false alarms, and more effective and accurate forensic search effectiveness.

Hanwha also offers cameras with built-in white LED lights. These lights combine with advanced AI analytics for highly accurate object, vehicle, and people detection. But the white lights can be used to provide brighter, safer environments while also functioning as a deterrent by shining a bright light on people loitering or suspicious activities in progress.

Also, Hanwha offers IP-based audio systems that can be linked with a store’s video surveillance system to broadcast either real-time or pre-recorded messages to preemptively address suspicious or criminal activities. For example, the surveillance system can detect if a person is hovering too close to other patrons and issue an audio warning to maintain an appropriate distance. In border or perimeter monitoring applications, the system can issue audio warnings if a potential infiltration is detected or if the system senses human activity that indicates a possible perimeter breaching.

In retail settings, the IP audio system can help prevent theft using a “dwell time trigger” that can detect people in a retail space lingering for a suspiciously long period, indicating the possibility of shoplifting, for example. The system can broadcast an audio warning instructing the person to seek assistance from a sales associate, making it clear to any potential shoplifter that their behavior is under surveillance.

“I was an operator an in LP, and I go back to a very common sense approach,” Darnell said. “Why is mental health important? One, we want associates to be happy and have a positive work environment and carry that into customer service. You cannot have a successful business if everyone is struggling mentally; you want to make sure productivity is good, customer service is good, but most important, our job is to protect the assets of the company, and the number one asset is our people and our customers and our shareholders and our communities. We want to protect our people—we want to give them a safe, fun environment.”

“Hanwha can help provide resources that help people at a retail location feel safe,” Swanson added.

Hanwha’s business development team is made up of subject matter experts in each vertical who, after hearing retailers’ concerns about mental health, have helped create analytics that empower stores to combat the issue.

And they want to hear more—if there are analytics that retailers want that Hanwha doesn’t currently offer, they are fully committed to helping retailers with the issue and creating a solution that truly helps.

“At Hanwha we don’t have the answers for mental health issues, but we want to be able to supply mechanisms that can help ease the anxiety of retailers. When you have cameras in a store it creates a deterrent that could potentially put people at ease, and they see the company is doing something for them,” Darnell added. “Every vendor—whether they know it or not—is helping in one way or another because we’re providing tools that can deter an event from ever happening. The solution provider must understand the situation, and they have to be thoughtful in the development and creation of their product to deter bad things from happening because associates are going through enough already.”

Learn more about how Hanwha can help at hanwhavisionamerica.com.

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