Workplace changes and well-being: adapting to a new era

By Andrea Parent, social media and digital content coordinator

The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably brought many changes to our lives, both in our personal spheres and in our professional habits. Many of us have gone from going to the office five days a week to working from home, while others have lost their jobs or have had to deal with significant professional changes.

As some COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, employers may ask their staff to return to the workplace. Adapting to many changes in a relatively short period of time can be challenging, so it’s important to make sure we are of taking care of our mental health.

Recognizing signs of stress
Workplace changes can create stress. Look for these common signs:
  • Physical (stomach ache, tiredness, insomnia)
  • Mental (difficulty concentrating, memory losses)
  • Emotional (anxiety, worrying, feeling overwhelmed)
  • Behavioural (recklessness, procrastinating)
  • Interpersonal (withdrawn or conflicts with others)
What you can do
a computer, a cell phone, books and a mug on a tableAs an employer or manager, there are things you can do to make sure you are promoting self-care. Self-care is about taking care of ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally. While many leaders acknowledge self-care is important, it has traditionally been viewed as something that is done outside of work. Now, more than ever, leaders are acknowledging the benefits of self-care inside the workplace too. In workplaces with a strong culture of self-care, employees are better able to manage stress, build resiliency, and avoid burnout.   Not only that, self-care can help strengthen employee retention. According to the Human Resources Professionals Association, “organizations that champion employee well-being are for more engaged, motivated, and productive. They tend to experience higher retention rates, reduced absenteeism, employee burnout and workplace injuries.” All good reasons to make wellbeing a priority in the workplaces. 

5 ways to promote a self-care culture at work 
Below are 5 practical ways that managers and employers can help their employees manage stress, compiled with recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Canada and the team at Calm Meditation App.
  1. Foster good habits and lead by example. If you see employees eating lunch at their desks – encourage them to take a break and get outside. Promote healthy physical activity. Have walking meetings. Set boundaries on your time and stick to them. Avoid scheduling meetings over lunch breaks or during times that may extend people’s workday, particularly when meetings involve employees in different time zones.
  2. Offer practical supports. Make sure employees know what resources are available to support them. Help foster an environment where people feel comfortable to share if they are struggling with stress and burnout. If you have discovered a great strategy that has helped you better manage your own stress, share the recommendation with colleagues. Celebrate each other’s wins and support each other during challenges. 
  3. Allow for flexibility during the workday.  Let people know it’s ok to prioritize their own well-being when they need to.  People are less likely to suffer from stress and burnout if they know they have the freedom to take short breaks to do an errand, walk the dog, or do other important personal things when needed.
  4.  Encourage communication. Communication and transparency within your team should be encouraged. Creating a safe space for discussion often reduces stress levels and feelings of loneliness. Feeling heard and understood is important.
  5. Be clear and consistent. During times of uncertainty, it’s helpful to have a structure in place. Stress levels can be reduced by things like having meetings at the same time every week, clarifying everyone’s responsibilities, and setting realistic deadlines.
a red booklet in front of a white roomAt the Canadian Red Cross, we offer a wide variety of first aid training, including Psychological First Aid. These courses help organizations create a healthier workplace environment and develop habits to promote well-being. Many organizations have benefited from participating in the training and have learned how to create healthier workplaces.
Psychological First Aid Instructors John Napier, Diane Story and Wendi Napier are very enthusiastic, “This innovative program has allowed the Red Cross to incorporate mental health supports into all of its programs to complement the First Aid training that they already offer “.
When asked about the benefits of being trained in Psychological First Aid, the instructors agreed, “Bringing Psychological First Aid to the general public has allowed participants to increase their own resilience with an emphasis on self- care and to share their self-care skills with others. The program has highlighted self-care practices and has added the term to the mainstream.”
They continued: “The ripple effect of the training has allowed us to support at-risk remote communities and urban recreation centres. We have seen participants that have completed the training become advocates for themselves and others, and model healthy mental wellness behaviours in the community.  Everyone needs to have a safe space to share their stories and the training helps to create these spaces that are open to valuable and meaningful conversations.”
The Red Cross Psychological First Aid program is built on the latest evidence-based research on emotional, psychological, and social well-being from the international community, including the World Health Organization (WHO). The program uses an audience-specific, case-based approach to learning in which participants work together to consider daily stresses in their own environments, and then collaboratively develop tools and strategies to manage the effects of various types of stress. This approach helps to foster a collective culture of wellness and support.

Related stories:
Coping with crisis: What’s in your self-care plan?
Working from home: Solutions to the challenges of an abrupt workspace change
Feeling stressed? How to handle the ongoing pandemic

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