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Free Employer Toolkit

The toolkit offers a variety of informative tools. Learn about the skills people with disabilities bring to the workplace and use our ‘how-to’ resources, that provide practical tips and strategies on successful recruitment, hiring, inclusion and retention of people with disabilities.

COVID-19 Tools

COVID-19 has significantly impacted Canadian businesses, forcing many employers to adapt. The value of diversity and inclusion has never been as important as it is today. Employers seeking to recover from the pandemic will be looking to their teams for resilience and adaptability. Once the world shifts back to normal, businesses that foster an inclusive workplace and hire with diversity in mind stand to benefit the most!

Visit our new COVID-19 tools for further information on how hiring people with disabilities will translate into overall business success after the pandemic.

COVID-19 Tools

The COVID-19 public health crisis has had a significant negative impact on psychological health and safety in the workplace and has presented an ongoing and varying degree of ‘threat’ to all of us. Some diversity groups are more vulnerable to this threat, as well as to the associated stresses and psychological effects. Fortunately, there are extensive resources and information that employers can use not only to support employee wellbeing and productivity during these challenging times, but also to build a strong, resilient, engaged workforce to assist with your business’s post-pandemic recovery.


What is Psychological Health and Safety and Why Does it Matter?

Workplace psychological health and safety refers to the strategies and practices used at work to promote employee wellbeing and prevent harm. These strategies and practices prevent and address issues such as harassment, bullying, high levels of stress and employee disengagement. The factors that foster psychological health and safety also help to create an inclusive workplace culture in which employee engagement, productivity and retention are high. All of these factors play a key role in business adaptability, resilience and pandemic recovery.

Issues associated with lower levels of workplace psychological health and safety include:

  • Absenteeism
  • Presenteeism (present but disengaged)
  • Lower productivity and performance
  • Issues of bullying/harassment
  • Poor mental health and stress leaves
  • Employee turnover
  • Bad reviews for you as an employer/talent attraction issues
  • Employment/human rights lawsuits

It is estimated that workplace psychological health and safety issues cost the Canadian economy over $20 billion annually in lost productivity. Taking steps to support employee wellbeing and mitigate increases in these costs during the pandemic is designed to boost business productivity and resilience.

It is critical for employers to recognize the importance of psychological health and safety in the workplace. COVID-19 has highlighted the need to manage workplace stress and mental health. The strategies and practices recommended here will help develop your leadership skills while building a more resilient, engaged, productive workforce.


COVID-19 – Psychological Threat Management

This resource will focus on strategies, practices and behaviours in which employers can engage immediately to promote and support psychological health and safety in the workplace. The full response required by companies to effectively address workplace psychological health and safety requires a commitment and investment of time and resources through a process identified by the Mental Health Commission of Canada as the ‘P-6 Framework’, which includes policy, planning, promotion, prevention, process and persistence.

We recognize that not all employers have the same capacity to embark on such an initiative amid a pandemic. Furthermore, we do not recommend trying to do so at a time when workplace stress levels are high. We would, however, recommend that employers familiarize themselves with workplace psychological health and safety as employment and occupational health and safety legislation is placing ever-greater emphasis on this issue.

Despite the differences in each business’s capacity to respond to psychological health and safety in the workplace, it is important to note that most of the recommended processes are intended as ‘suggestive rather than prescriptive.’ Our recommended strategy during COVID-19 is for employers to implement as many of the key points listed below as they deem appropriate for their business. Again, these strategies are intended to provide an immediate crisis response and to support longer-term workplace inclusion, resilience and productivity.


Immediate Response - A Neuroscientific Approach

Humans are ‘hard-wired’ to perceive the world as a continuous stream of threats and rewards. We are also very social beings, so our awareness of threats and rewards is very high in social or interactional situations, such as work. It’s important to note that our emotional responses to threats are much bigger than our responses to rewards. We ‘walk towards reward’ but we ‘run from threats.’ COVID has activated varying levels of threat responses in us all. Factors such as diversity, vulnerability, anxiety levels, life experience and personal impacts mean that some of us perceive higher levels of threat than others do. To ensure business resilience and recovery, it is important for employers to support all workers during this difficult time.

People perceive inclusion as very rewarding and exclusion as very threatening; we have clear physiological and psychological responses to those stimuli. Throughout the course of human evolution, exclusion from a social group literally meant death. Studies show that we have the same ‘threat response’ to exclusion as we do to a lack of food or water.


Threat Reduction

certitude tool 11.4 health2xCertainty – Although these are very uncertain times, employers can lessen the stress associated with uncertainty. Be predictable in the face of uncertainty. Even if you don’t have answers for employees now, set a weekly time for updates to foster predictability and certainty. What can you tell people that is known? When will you provide the next update? What messages can you give people that help create certainty?

autonomie tool 11.4 health2xAutonomy – Control over one’s work (autonomy) is a factor in workplace psychological health and safety. Finding ways to give workers choice and flexibility with how they perform their work is a key strategic way to increasing their sense of control and reducing feelings of threat. Communicate what is essential to operations and what is flexible. Don’t be afraid of these conversations: they will likely result in more engaged, productive workers.

interrelation tool 11.4 health2xRelatedness – People typically respond to threats and crises by ‘banding together’ and supporting each other. To do this physically during a public health crisis is counterproductive, so we have to provide ways for people to do this with safe alternatives, such as virtual or physically distanced meetings. Connecting and collaborating are both perceived as rewarding, as is problem-solving, so be sure to emphasize these strategies. Helping employees to connect and focus on work (while overcoming work-related challenges) will bring people together and reduce feelings of threat.

concentration tool 11.4 health2xFocus – Helping people to focus on their work takes their mind off the things they can’t control (e.g., the pandemic). Meetings should deal with shared goals, challenges, opportunities and solutions. Make sure that everyone gets to “check in”; be inclusive. This strategy is engaging, rewarding and positive on both an emotional and psychological level.

Label the good and the bad: “Yes, these are difficult times. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed but we will adapt, support each other and we will recover.” This helps people to organize problems and solutions more effectively in clear ways with a view to reducing mental fatigue and stress.


Tips

  • Psychological health is just as important as physical health
  • Exclusion reduces performance – inclusion increases performance
  • Increase the frequency of communication/virtual meetings
  • Give workers choice and control wherever possible
  • Set regular connection times for teams and focus on collaborative problem-solving
  • Labelling feelings, challenges and strengths helps reduce stress
  • Focus communication on clarity, certainty, autonomy and connection
  • Remember that we all respond to crises and threats differently


Mindset Matters

  1. Think of workplace psychological health and safety in the same way you would occupational health and safety. It’s about keeping workers safe and engaged as they perform.
  2. Improving workplace psychological health and safety is an ongoing journey that requires leadership attention and commitment – but it pays off in the end!


Sources
  1. “Workplace.” Mental Health Commission of Canada, Workplace | Mental Health Commission of Canada. Accessed 16 December 2020.
  2. “Quick Workplace Assessment.” Minds Matter, Know where your workplace stands on mental health. In under 3 minutes. | MindsMatter (openingminds.ca). Accessed 16 December 2020.
  3. “Assess and address psychological health and safety in your workplace.”
  4. Guarding Minds at Work, Full Survey/Workplace Assessment. Accessed 16 December 2020.
  5. “Making organizations more human through science.” Neuroleadership Institute, Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing Resources. Accessed 16 December 2020.


Disclaimer:

Hire for Talent has made every effort to use the most respectful words possible while writing these materials. We realize, however, that the most appropriate terminology may change over time. We developed these materials with the intent to respect the dignity and inherent rights of all individuals.




Don’t forget to fill in our survey about the COVID-19 Tools!



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Facts & Stats

Growing your business requires the ability to attract talent in a shrinking market. Workplaces with a diverse, healthy, inclusive culture are becoming employers of choice.
Hire for Talent is focused on workers with disabilities because this talent pool, and the support services attached, have profound impact on workplace inclusion.
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Canada’s projected worker to retiree ratio will be 2:1 within 15 years. Recruitment from diverse talent pools will be essential!
The inclusion of people with disabilities generates measurable improvements in performance, innovation and company image.