How to Support the Mental Health of Your Essential Workers

  • Workplace Health & Safety
Michelle Ann Zoleta

Michelle Ann Zoleta, Health & Safety Team Manager

(Last updated )

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Even at the peak of the pandemic, essential workers were going to work every day. They have been putting their lives at risk to provide critical services to their communities.

If you operate an essential business, you may be all too familiar with the psychological strain involved. Dealing with a distraught public during a deadly infectious disease outbreak is not easy.

It is not only the risk to physical health that is a constant cause of worry for essential workers. Experiencing other kinds of stress related to the pandemic (job security, safety of loved ones) over a long period may also take a toll on your staff’s mental health.

Not much is expected to change till majority of the population is vaccinated against COVID-19. But you can help reduce the stress and pressure your employees may be struggling with right now. Doing so will also improve your workplace morale and productivity.

Here are 5 ways in which you can support your essential employees:

Provide a safe work environment

A major cause of worry for your staff is that they may contract COVID-19 at work. When you take all reasonable precautions to reduce the risk of virus transmission in the workplace, you make them feel more in control of their safety.

Protect your workplace by following physical distancing, rigorous disinfection procedures, and screening your staff daily before they come into work. Implement a strict ‘no mask, no entry’ policy for your customers.

Ensure your staff has access to the personal protective equipment they need. You may also want to consider offering paid sick leave so that employees stay home when they feel sick.

Remind your staff to take breaks and time off

Your team may be working long hours during the pandemic. It is critical to their physical and mental well-being that they get sufficient rest.

Remind your staff to take their designated days off. You could also provide a break room (with a clear capacity limit) at work where your staff could go to take short breaks. You should lead by example and take regular time off as well.

Encourage self-care

Your staff could be stressed about finances, job security and/or the safety of their family. Those who live alone may be more prone to skipping meals or neglecting their health. Talk to your staff about the importance of self-care. They should ensure they get proper sleep, eat healthy, exercise, and stay connected virtually with family and friends

Inform your staff about available mental health resources

If you provide an Employee Assistance Program, remind your workers how to access it and what services are available to them. Inform your employees of the free mental health resources provided by the federal and provincial governments (OntarioAlberta, and British Columbia).

Acknowledge the hard work of your employees

It is the hard work and courage of essential workers that has made it possible for Canadians to carry on with their routines during the pandemic. Take out time to recognize the hard work and risks taken by your staff. It always feels good to be valued and appreciated for your work — even more so during a crisis like the current one. 

Do you need help creating health and safety policies for the pandemic?

Our experts can help you develop company policies as well as with any other HR, health and safety, or employment advice you may need. See how we have helped other small and medium businesses get their business compliant with provincial legislation.

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