Mental Health and the Easing of COVID-19 Restrictions in the Workplace: Esther Fleurimond
Description: Esther Fleurimond emphasizes the importance of monitoring employees' needs during these unprecedented times. She also provides examples of what to put in place to reduce potential risks to employees' mental health in the workplace.
Date: November 23, 2020
[Text on screen: "Mental health and the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in the workplace: Esther Fleurimond"]
[Text on screen: "The COVID-19 pandemic can cause major stress inmany areas of our lives."]
[Text on screen: "Easing workplace restrictions can trigger new anxieties. We need to think about the impact on mental health. Here are some aspects to consider."]
[Esther Fleurimond, Workplace Health and Safety Consultant, Mental Health, Workplace Safety and Prevention Services, addresses the camera.]
My name is Esther Fleurimond and I'm a workplace health and safety expert, specialized in mental health. I work at WSPS (Workplace Safety and Prevention Services). We employ over 200 mental and physical health and safety consultants to help employers in Ontario and across Canada foster mental health in their workplaces. First, I want to remind you that mental health is a journey, not a destination. Returning to work puts a huge strain on our mental health, and we all need to prioritize taking care of ourselves. There are several key steps to putting your mental health first and successfully returning to work. First, look at your mental state about going back to the workplace. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? How are you feeling about going back? I'm sure that you've gained new strengths over the past few months that have helped you through this pandemic. And though your specific experiences may differ, each of you has also developed some degree of resilience in this time of distancing and isolation. Now, I want you to remind yourself—especially if you're a manager, an executive or in a leadership role—that it's okay if you don't have all the answers. As you hold meetings to plan and prepare for the return to the workplace, make sure that mental health is part of the conversation. Have intentional, respectful, honest and open discussions about health and safety for employees and managers both. Next, offer support and track progress. Employers and management need to remember that the pandemic has touched everyone's lives in different ways and that many returning employees and managers have gone through emotional distress that will affect their work capacity. Their mental health will be affected throughout the pandemic. People in Canada and all over the world have faced unprecedented struggles due to isolation, concerns about mental and physical health, substance abuse and financial and job insecurity, to say nothing of the recent emotionally fraught dialogue on racial equality. In one way or another, these issues affect us all. Now, let's turn to some ways that federal employers and their employees can take mental health and safety into account for a successful return to work. The first step is active listening: employers and supervisors need to intentionally and actively listen to their employees, showing they truly care and taking the time to hear and understand any concerns employees may have about returning to work. Expect many fears and apprehensions. Employees may be wondering whether physical protective measures will be in place, such as gloves for them to use, environmental protection and barriers separating clients from employees who interact with the public on a regular basis. Employers also need to pinpoint employees' concerns about workloads and clarify expectations about projects and deadlines that may have piled up in their absence. They must ensure that managers' expectations are transparent, well defined, achievable and, most importantly, realistic. Do they taking employees' current productivity levels into account? Remember that employees whose mental health has suffered and who have been hit hard by the pandemic will have a different cognitive capacity from before, and allowances must be made. For example, employees may be looking after aging parents, meaning they need to take time to bring them food, keep them company, etc. The pressure placed on such employees, as well as their workloads, should be adjusted accordingly. Employees may also worry that they will be expected to make up for all the months of backlog right away. They need to know that their employer is listening to their concerns and will provide the support, resources and communication channels needed to get through this challenging transition together. Finally, employers should make mental health resources available to their employees. You can find many resources on our website WSPS.ca. Enter thinkmentalhealth.ca into your browser for mental health resources in English and French, as well as guidelines for forming a multidisciplinary team to make your return to the workplace a successful one. I know that by pulling together, we can create healthy, safe and successful workplaces. Have a great day and remember to look after your mental and physical health. Thank you.
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