By Mary-Lou MacDonald

Since the Coronavirus shutdown that began in March, physical health has been top of mind for most Canadians. But the social isolation demanded by the measures brought with it a host of other challenges in the areas of mental and financial wellbeing.

Many employers already offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The good news is there are many additional steps they can take to provide active support for their employees.

Physical Health

After three months of shutdown, everyone knows about physical distancing measures and quarantine for those who have been exposed. Here are some other ways to encourage physical wellbeing:

  • Notice the signs. It is no longer taboo to take time off when you are sick. Encourage employees to pay attention to their physical health and attend to it by eating well, getting enough sleep and regularly washing their hands.
  • Encourage people to move. Promote online fitness opportunities, offered through the EAP, a corporate membership or a nudge app. Managers can also encourage “walking meetings” as a way to increase movement.
  • Offer ergonomic assessments. Many employees suddenly found themselves working awkwardly from their dining table or the living room couch. Help employees to create a proper home office environment where they can work in comfort. Neglecting this now can lead to chronic problems later.
  • Recommend flexible work hours and virtual care. Make use of telemedicine options. Continue to offer employees flexible working hours that give them the flexibility to manage their other stressors.

Mental Health

It’s critical to continue to normalize the conversation around mental health and wellbeing. Keep the momentum going with these recommendations:

  • Promote self-care. It’s not selfish. Self-care is an important mental health resilience tool. Encourage employees to take breaks, reach out to friends and supporters, spend time in nature or enjoy time with their pets, without apologizing for it.
  • Provide leadership training for everyone. Even if you have only one employee that reports to you, leadership training is critical. It’s through the role set by their managers that employees feel comfortable to address their mental health needs.
  • Offer mental resilience training. Employees that are strong in resilience perform better under pressure. It’s like PPE for your mental health.
  • Encourage time to disconnect. Your employees may need permission to disconnect. When working from home, it can be hard to separate home life from working life. Taking breaks and vacations and even implementing policies around answering emails during off hours may help.
  • Shore up EAP offerings. Review what you are already offering, and fill in the gaps based on the needs of your employees, from Boomers to Millennials. Some common issues today include treatment for anxiety, insomnia and disordered eating and drinking. Be sure to continually promote the EAP offerings as well.
  • Create peer support groups. Everyone needs an opportunity to be surrounded by supportive people. Offering training for formal support is one way; other ways include through a cultural support group or an interest group, such as a book club or a running group.

Financial Health

Financial health is having the financial resources to meet your obligations; financial wellbeing is having confidence about your ability to manage your situation; and financial literacy is having the skills and knowledge to make responsible financial decisions. Understanding each of these components is critical to supporting your employees.

  • Share information. Providing information to support good financial decision making can lessen the strain. Offer webinars on a variety of topics to address different needs, from budgeting and building emergency funds to managing retirement funds and understanding savings plans, such as RRSPs and TFSAs.

This crisis is the opportunity to demonstrate that compassionate and empathetic leadership through coronavirus EAP options is important. Showing support helps build trust with your employees, creating a dedicated and loyal staff that is committed to supporting your business.

Contact your HUB Health and Performance specialists to help you assess, access and put in place programs and services to help address the physical, mental and financial health of your workforce.