Workplace Health Saf. 2023 Mar;71(3):144-151. doi: 10.1177/21650799221101001. Epub 2022 Aug 8.
OBJECTIVES: The Coronavirus-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic presents a unique burden specifically for workers in service industries. However, limited research on service worker’s experience during the onset of COVID-19 exists. We aimed to describe the experiences and concerns of service industry workers during the pandemic’s onset.
METHODS: This is a mixed-method study. Participants were recruited through social media and completed either a survey or a phone interview during May and June 2020. The survey and transcribed interview data were analyzed using the SPSS software and content analysis, respectively.
RESULTS: Twenty-seven individuals completed audio-recorded phone interviews and 28 completed the survey. Participants were mostly women between 19 and 65 years old. Participants worked in food retail (n = 23), restaurant (n = 25), and hospitality (n = 7) industries. There was discordance in perceived threat level of COVID-19. Most participants reported that their workplace complied with their state’s mandates for protection measures, while others reported lacking basic supplies such as soap, hand sanitizer, and masks. Job insecurity, change of job tasks, and work hours were the most common ways that COVID-19 affected the workers. Worker’s assertiveness to self-protect while at work was influenced by their perceived severity of the pandemic.
CONCLUSION/APPLICATION TO PRACTICE: This study highlights the vulnerability of service workers relating to job security and job tasks during the pandemic. Organizational processes are needed to promote safe work environments and facilitate access to resources for these workers. In addition, occupational health practitioners need to be aware of and address the emerging health risks and worker needs.