Written by Christine Aitcheson, CHRP
Human Resources and Finance Administrator
Zehr Insurance Brokers Ltd.
My last blog was written during the first lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic in May 2020. In that blog, I shared some tips on how to work from home.
Many workers have been enduring additional mental health challenges due to new stressors brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and studies from Statistics Canada (2021) show twenty-five percent of Canadian adults who were screened showed symptoms of depression, anxiety or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in spring of 2021. This has increased from twenty-one percent in fall of 2020. The 2021 report reveals stress is not going away and is only getting more severe.
Employers with additional mental health supports through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or other programming, resources or in-house counselling can really help their workers. As a Human Resources professional, I try to help employees find the resources and connections they need. There are many sources of stress right now.
Working from home
Some of us have continued to work from home either full time or part time. Maybe that works for you. Maybe it does not work for you. Some may still dislike it and many are “so done with online everything”. Some of us have a different outlook on remote work. I moved to a hybrid work from home schedule and that works for my employer, my family and I. Either way, working from home or the office may cause stress to some.
For those of you with children or youth in the house, as I write this, you may currently be working and teaching again. Perhaps you were already full-time teaching from home. Depending on ability, age, access to internet and devices and overall level of being able to pay attention to teachers on a computer screen this could be very stressful for the young people in your life and therefore, be stressful for you as well.
Closures and Uncertainty
In early December when I first remember hearing about this Omicron variant, I thought to myself that we have good numbers of people vaccinated now in Ontario. The government will not need to close schools, businesses or sports, right?
Workers and employers are having to deal with lay-offs, closures, organizing or working remotely, accommodating workers and some unusual schedules. How do we prevent all of this stress?
Whether you choose to be vaccinated or not, many from age five and up have been vaccinated at least once by now and we certainly did not have that luxury to choose back in May of 2020. I am not a scientist so I will not delve into this too much.
This is a bit of a repeat from my last blog however the advice for people working from home remains the same. Try to have a dedicated workspace so you can keep your work time separate from your home time. Your workspace should be ergonomically safe, your work should be secure (from children, pets and visitors) and avoid distractions (like the TV, laundry, your phone or those dishes someone didn’t put away). Make a plan or to-do list for your workday to help you stay on track and stay on top of your goals. Get ready for your workday and add some routine. Routines like listening to music, exercising or driving your car around to trick your mind into beginning or ending your workday may help too. Do not forget to take some “me” time for yourself. Have a nap, dance, play with your children, colour, do yoga, take the dog for a walk. The list is endless, but enjoying the things you love will help manage your stress.
Do not forget to take some “me” time for yourself.
Mental Health and Safety
If the options above are not helping you, then here are some ideas to help you find mental health help when needed for a variety of reasons.
- Province of Ontario
- Canadian Mental Health Association
- Children’s Mental Health Ontario
- Connex Ontario (for support with mental health, addiction and problem gambling services)
- 211 Ontario (allows you to search by need of support required and location)
- Resources list from the Ontario College of Family Physicians and Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto
You can ask your family doctor to refer you to the help you need.
Employee Assistance Programs
Some employers have as part of their benefits a program called Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Generally, this program offers immediate help for the employee and dependents to help with wellness issues, workplace issues, personal problems, family and social relationships, dependency issues, crisis counselling and more depending on the provider and the plan.
Programs may be offered in a variety of formats (online, phone, groups) as appropriate. Some of these are available 24/7. These services are confidential meaning that providers do not share that you or your dependents used the services with your employer.
It is likely you have seen reminders to be kind to one another. Be patient about what others may be experiencing. This pandemic has not disappeared. Please take care and ask for help if you need it. Keep in touch with your family and friends.