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It’s important that we pay extra attention to mental health issues in our companies in 2021.
By T. Smitten
It’s 2021 and you’re settling into your “new normal” or so you thought. But things keep changing and you’re finding this pandemic requires more than simply meeting recommended protocols.
Now you’re thinking about mental health. The call for social distancing, increased workplace safety requirements and various lockdown measures have employers delving into new territory. And while employers are adjusting their business models, the individuals that make up their organizations are still adjusting also. Employers have quickly become educated on PPE, consumed with space measurements and many were compelled to transition their work environment to a virtual workspace.
Although employers are addressing the physical challenges of the pandemic to meet an increased responsibility for the physical health of their teams, studies show employers can and should help to maintain the mental health of their staff. This idea may beg the question:
How can employers, organizations, and leaders help with mental health matters at work?
Life has Completely Changed at Work
The global pandemic has changed and unified the experiences of people worldwide including how we work. With many working remotely, the workplace has now come into the home. The lifestyle of the everyday staffer and their workplace dynamics has changed. In today’s workplace an employer is closer to home than ever before.
At ET Group, HR Generalist Mark Bystrek is working on creative solutions for the Workplace Health & Safety challenges posed by the global pandemic. ET Group has operated successfully for 44 years and spent nearly the last decade working in a hybrid workspace. The company’s transition into a fully virtual work environment to protect the health of their employees was seamless. As a company that focuses on a human centric workplace and putting people first, ET Group is aware that additional health and safety considerations such as the mental health of the team are as equally important to the overall health of the organization and business operations.
Mark views mental health awareness and support resources as part of leadership in any strong organization. He notes that organizations can play a role in offering help. “An additional responsibility is dealing with people’s mental health. we all crave, being back to normal we’re all going through a change now, societal change, and it’s also workplace change. So that’s caused a lot of stress on a lot of people mentally. It takes a toll. So, it about being there to help.”
Critical to Foster a Company Culture that:
- Provides a safe environment where employees can discuss mental wellness in confidence without stigma
- Encourage a work/life balance (Even more during difficult times)
- Communicating Health & Wellness
- Offer Support to team members
Exceed Workplace Health & Safety Standards
You run an exceptional business with exceptional staff? Continue to be exceptional. Ensure you have not only met but exceeded all the workplace healthy and safety requirements for your business. A study conducted by Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers; sites poor workplace precautions take more of a toll on the mental health of staff than job loss. The study found workers with inadequate safety measures in place reported increased numbers of anxiety and depression. People want to feel safe at work and also want their employers to want their safety too.
As a leader in ET Group’s Health & Safety program, Mark has noted “Part of it is very much dealing with the safety of employees and when it comes to the health and safety it’s also under the HR side of it. Making sure that people are working safe. That is very much at the forefront of having a great work environment so that if people come into the work and want to work here in the office, that they feel comfortable to be able to do so. “ Some of the steps ET Group has taken to exceed workplace health & safety standards are:
- Daily Health Questionnaire for those who will be in the office
- Mandatory Masks in the office
- Enhanced Office Clearance – prebooking or scheduling time in the office
- A robust COIVD – 19 protocol when an employee is suspected or has tested positive
- Signage and markings to ensure that everyone maintains social distancing
- Skeleton staff – Only essential employees working in the office.
Keep Your Teams Talking
Since the start of the pandemic Canadians have reported an increase in mental health issues. Two in Five Canadians say they have had a mental health decrease in the last year according to a study commissioned by CTV news. With working from home becoming more common, employers now have a unique opportunity to connect with their teams in a more personable way. Communication is key to not only maintain company culture but to syncing up and checking in with the people in your organization.
Mark’s created a Covid Communication channel within a web messenger where he communicates with the entire team. “ We provide a daily COVID updates bases on the PHAC and Government of Ontario Website, COVID-19 news highlights from various media sources and provide updates when there are any status changes by any government agencies” says Mark. To help with morale Mark also posts uplifting current events.
Create an Open Door for Mental Health Resources
Encouraging your team to make use of the health resources associated with their benefits is step in the right direction. Offering an open-door policy even if virtual will help create a safe space for those struggling with a mental health matter. Offer additional help if it is not offered in the company’s benefit package. According to CAMH ( Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) Canadians that struggle with Mental Health during the pandemic are experiencing a normal reaction to a global social, economic and major health crisis. It is to be expected. CAMH has found health resources and support can help those who struggle with mental health in these times find ways to cope. As ET Group is a company based out of Ontario Mark also recommends:
- Offering resources to help support employees
- Employee assistance plan
- Job protected unpaid leave of absence
- Long Term Disability
“Our goal is to ensure that our workplace is as safe as possible for all our employees” says Mark, and that includes mental health. When it comes to mental health and your organization just remember, we are all in this together and your organization will thrive when your members do.
Please see our company handbook where we share open information about how our company works together. This includes unique approaches, processes, and practices such as self-set salaries and decentralized decision making.