Wellness, Informal Conflict Management System, and Occupational Health and Safety

In light of the current situation, it is important to highlight key wellness and mental health resources available to you and your family, as well as specific tips that can help you recognize a decline in a colleague’s mental health and how to address it. The Wellness Program Digital Workplace site and the Wellness JUSnet page are also available for additional resources.

If you need support or have questions about mental health or wellness, please contact Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and/or the Justice Wellness Team. These services are safe and confidential. You may also find it helpful to consult LifeSpeak.

Stay connected with #GCMentalHealth and follow @CEMHW_CESMMT on Twitter.

On this page you will find:

Tips for maintaining healthy relationships while easing restrictions to returning to the workplace

We all experience crises differently. As we navigate through this unprecedented time in our lives, we are bound to encounter some unique challenges. Seeing as safety precautions will continue for the near future, we will face a different reality for some time. These are some key points to be mindful of for maintaining healthy relationships as we will ease restrictions to return gradually back to our workplaces:

Sustaining relationships virtually

We may continue to see a high number of employees working from home. Due to this, it is important to stay connected through email, phone or video. Whether you reach out to see how your co-worker is doing, or would like to discuss work, communicating regularly is good and enhances relationships. In addition, it allows everyone to feel involved when working remotely.

Communicating our needs effectively

Fear and anxiety are common emotions during times of uncertainty.  To avoid possible negative impacts on our relationships in the workplace, it is important to be clear and respectful when communicating our boundaries to colleagues. This will limit the possibility of misunderstandings and conflicts. Conversely, if you are comfortable asking colleagues about their preferences and boundaries is a thoughtful approach to take.

How we communicate best may vary by team, as some will look to organize a group meeting to discuss their feelings and needs, while others may prefer to have individual conversations. The key is to communicate in a kind and compassionate manner. Doing so will help maintain and strengthen relationships.

With the exception of occasional virtual meetings, the primary means of communication during this time have been email and telephone exchanges. While these are useful methods, they can also be limiting since you are unable to perceive or convey some key nonverbal cues. Nonverbal indicators such as smiling and eye contact are crucial to our interactions as they make for a more human experience, and add missing elements to email and phone conversations. While this point is positive in many respects, it is equally challenging, as we must once again be mindful of our behaviour around others. Being aware of our actions is important, as any misunderstandings – whether verbal or nonverbal – can create conflict.

Reconnecting with coworkers while respecting boundaries

Similar to the previous point, reconnecting with coworkers in the office will be beneficial to employees and team morale. However, it is important to express compassion and understanding upon your return to the workplace since everyone experiences events differently. While some will look for social interactions, others may have fears and reservations.

Expressing compassion

We must be compassionate towards our colleagues, as each individual experiences situations differently; this includes being understanding of their feelings and circumstance at home. While everyone will be impacted to varying degrees, situations at home may ultimately define how employees will act in the workplace; for example, those living with children, seniors, or any other vulnerable group, may want to take extra precautions in the workplace. For example, when interacting with colleagues or passing around documents. For this reason, before judging or questioning someone’s reservations, try to put yourself in their shoes; whether or not you are aware of their situation, be mindful that your colleagues are justified to feel and act in a way that makes them feel safe.

Closing message

Are you feeling overwhelmed? If so, slowing down to manage your emotions will provide some space for you to respond more productively to situations. If your return to the office elicits feelings that could create conflict, please contact the ICMS team by email at icms-sgic@justice.gc.ca or by phone at 1-877-944-4414.

References

  1. Camarinha-Matos, L. & Afsarmanesh, H. (2008). Concept of Collaboration. Encyclopedia of Networked and Virtual Organizations.
  2. Eunson, B. (2012). Non-Verbal Communication. Clayton, Australia. Monash University.
  3. Khemesh, S. (2019). Effective Communication Techniques. Anadolu University  

Top 10 tips for working at home and maintaining mental health

  1. Set a schedule. Routine helps us physically and mentally prepare for our day.
  2. Set boundaries at work and at home.
  3. Respect your limits. Resist the temptation to work beyond your regular day, and share your limits with others to avoid burnout.
  4. Call or text a work buddy to feel more connected.
  5. Take virtual coffee breaks.
  6. Create a healthy sleep hygiene.
  7. Stay hydrated throughout the day.
  8. Have a dedicated space for your home office to create boundaries between work and home life.
  9. Only obtain information on the COVID-19 situation from reliable sources, and limit the duration and frequency of these updates.
  10. Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to the news.

For additional resources and guidance visit the Wellness Program’s Tips for Managers and Tips for Employees pages on the Digital Workspace.

In collaboration with the Innovation Council and the Workplace Branch, Communications has created illustrated tips about working from home.

Think of the Positives, described below

Adjusting to a new work environment can be challenging, particularly during these circumstances. It can help to focus on some of the positive changes you experience, such as avoiding a difficult commute or sharing your workspace with a pet.

Maintaining positive relationships while teleworking

Given most of us are now working from home, the Informal Conflict Management System team (ICMS) has helpful advice for managing the impact of telework, which comes with the potential for unique communication challenges. Here are a few quick tips for keeping up your relationships with your colleagues while working from a distance:

  1. Take care with your tone

    With so much of our communication happening by email and text instead of face-to-face, it’s even more important than usual to watch how we’re typing. Make sure your emails are clear and kind, and give others the benefit of the doubt when you read theirs.

  2. Some things are best said out loud

    While our reliance on email has increased, it’s still not the best medium for some kinds of communication. Having complex, urgent, or emotionally charged conversations by email can make it difficult and frustrating to get your point across, or cause delays if someone isn’t checking their email. Voice and video calls aren’t perfect, but they may feel like a step closer to being in person.

  3. Stay in touch

    Group calls, texts, and instant messaging can help your team stay connected - on a personal basis as well as a professional one. Make time to check up on your colleagues.

  4. Solicit input and feedback

    Make sure everybody feels valued and heard during your long-distance meetings. Solicit input from all participants, ask questions to clarify, and make sure to listen to feedback. Summarize what you have heard or ask clarifying questions to make sure participants feel understood or have an opportunity to clarify before misunderstandings happen.

  5. Be clear on your purpose

    Even more so than with a face-to-face meeting, you want to make sure to set your objectives in advance. It can be more difficult to run a meeting smoothly without the non-verbal cues we use in person, like nodding or raising a hand. Let attendees know what to expect so they know how best to participate. Being clear on the purpose will help keep the meeting on track and will give all participants a clear sense of direction.

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you are looking for a safe and confidential space to work through a situation that may create conflict – early intervention often leads to better outcomes for everyone. Keep in mind that pausing and slowing down can provide some space for you to respond more effectively to situations.

Please contact the ICMS by email at lcms-sgic@justice.gc.ca or by phone at 1-877-944-4414.

How to recognize a change in someone’s mental health

During times of crisis, it is particularly important to look for changes in your colleagues’ state of mental health. In a virtual work environment, you can:

If you have observed behaviours that concern you and you have a good relationship with the individual, give them a call and mention what you have noticed. Start with: “I have observed…” and share the change in behaviour(s) that you have observed and your concern. If they express that they are struggling, you could refer them to confidential resources, such as EAP or Justice Wellness Team.

If you don’t know your colleague very well, or you aren’t comfortable speaking with them about mental health, you can raise your concerns with your manager, contact the Justice Wellness Team, or the EAP for confidential guidance.

Support Services

LifeSpeak

LifeSpeak is a digital wellness platform that provides employees and their families with 24/7 access to leading experts in mental and physical health, financial health, family relationships and career skills development.

You can access LifeSpeak from anywhere (e.g. from your desktop, personal computer, cell phone, tablet, etc.) to watch videos, seek relevant information and practical strategies from experts and join web chats with an expert who can answer your questions directly and confidentially.

The site features a dedicated COVID-19 section with great articles and videos.

You and your family members can access the service free of charge at canada.lifespeak.com. For log-in information, please consult the Wellness Branch page.

Employee Assistance Program

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides bilingual, confidential and professional counselling services to Government of Canada employees and their family members, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Sometimes talking to a mental health professional can help you regain a healthy perspective on the current situation and its impact on you.

Related links:

Executive Counselling Services

Hosted by APEX, and free of charge to all Executives across the federal public service, this service provides a:

Regions Across Canada

Visit the Wellness Digital Workspace for one-pagers on internal and external services by region. For recommended resources from Justice and across Canada, visit the Wellness Program page on JUSnet.

Indigenous People

Learn about the wellness and mental health-related resources available for Indigenous communities across Canada.

Crisis Services Canada

Kids Help Phone

Lawyer Assistance Programs

Visit the Canadian Bar Association for a link to the confidential, free Lawyer Assistance Program in your region.

Additional Resources

Wellness Together Canada

Wellness Together Canada is a new individualized online mental health and wellness resource developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada. It provides individuals with a mechanism to assess their personal mental health status, then further tools and information based on those results to address individual needs.

There are modules that provide specific resources to assist individuals with addressing low mood, anxiety, substance use, social isolation and relationship issues. You are highly encouraged to explore this rich and interesting resource.

Treasury Board Secretariat

Health Canada

Public Service Health Care Plan

Provincial and Territorial Wellness Services Sites

Other Resources

Ergonomic tips for remote work

Teleworking can be challenging on a number of levels. It can take time (and some creativity) to set up a proper workstation to avoid physical injury. It also means getting used to a different work environment and schedule, as the separation between ‘home’ and ‘work’ becomes less clear. If you continue to experience challenges after implementing some of the tips listed below, speak with your manager.

Click through the links below for some tips on how to make sure you are comfortable and healthy—both physically and mentally while working at home.

For more information, check out the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’s Ergonomic Fact Sheets.

Setting up Your Home Workstation

Defining Your Workspace

When working from home, the first thing to do is define your workspace.

Working at a Table

A common ergonomic mistake is to set yourself up to work at a workstation that is too high—as is the case with the majority of kitchen tables, for example. If a table is too high, your elbows rest too low to the level of the keyboard and you can develop shoulder pain. If you prefer to work standing, or a suitable table is not available, consider temporary alternatives such as an ironing board or a countertop.

Two things to keep in mind when setting up your home workstation:

Figure 1 described below

Figure seated at an ergonomically correct workstation

  • Promotes a neutral posture.
  • Wrists and elbows must be at the same height as the work surface.
  • The majority of your forearms should rest on the armrests of your chair or the work surface.

Selecting a Chair

The chair is one of the most important elements of an ergonomic workstation, especially if your worktable is not adjustable. If your chair is too low, use a cushion or towels to raise you so that you can have your arm position level with your worktable. Consider placing another cushion on your back to provide lumbar support if your seat is too deep.

Tips on adjusting your chair:

Figure 2 described below

Figure depicted in a neutral sitting posture

  • Soles of the feet making an angle of 90° with the lower legs.
  • Thighs approximately in a horizontal position and lower legs vertical with feet resting on the floor or on a foot rest.
  • Back is fully supported with appropriate lumbar support when sitting vertical or leaning back slightly.

Working with a Laptop

Working with a laptop requires a certain amount of adaptation since the screen and keyboard are connected.

Reducing pain or discomfort:

Using your Screen

To protect your eyes, install the computer near a source of natural light, if possible, and at a distance of one and a half metres from the window. Position the screen so that the sun does not hit your screen directly.

Other tips:

Figure 3 described below

Figure shown working with a screen

  • Position your screen at arm’s length.
  • Adjust the screen to eye level to allow for a neutral head posture.
  • Place the screen directly in front of you to avoid having to twist your neck.

For more information, check out the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’s Ergonomic Fact Sheets.

Finding a Healthy Work-Life Balance at Home

Managing Screen Time

Staring at a screen for hours at a time, whether it be a computer or a handheld device, you might be exposing yourself to blue light. Prolonged exposure, especially in the evening, can have adverse effects on your sleep cycle. To avoid this, activate the nightlight mode on your device or download an app with a blue-light blocker.

Take a Break and Stretch

It’s important to take breaks and stretch regularly throughout the day. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your telework time:

Set Regular Working Hours

It’s easy to lose track of time when working from home. Some people work longer hours than in an office, while others find it difficult to stay focused from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for a variety of reasons.

Tidy up Your Workspace at the End of the Day

This is important and will help you to switch from work mode to home mode, even if there are only a few steps from your table to the sofa.

For more information, check out:

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