Return to work: what about mental health, have you talked about it?

With the economic recovery now underway, Quebec businesses are gradually resuming their activities. Employees are called back to work in an unprecedented context and many have experienced a difficult period; whether it is financial difficulties, family tensions, loneliness or stress, illness and even for some, bereavement, this episode will certainly leave psychological and emotional after-effects. Are you ready to reintegrate your employees in such a context?

In addition to the obligation to protect the health, safety and physical well-being of workers, it is now impossible to ignore the conversation about mental health, which is taking on a new dimension in the wake of the crisis. It is therefore essential to establish a climate of trust, empathy and support. Here is how to proceed, according to best practices in change management:

  • Create and deploya security, continuity and business recovery planto ensure consistency in your actions, which will give a feeling of security to your employees;
  • Form a team (or crisis unit) whose mandate will be to welcome staff on the first day of work and then support them in the transition and in change management;
  • Conduct an organizational survey to identify employee concerns regarding returning to work and address them quickly;
  • Communicate regularly, with the means at your disposal (email, telephone, videoconference, team meeting, etc.), with the aim of breaking the isolation of the last few months (but don’t stifle their meeting schedule either);
  • Offertraining to educate, inform and demystify mental health in the workplacein order to open dialogue in a respectful manner between employees and managers;
  • Offer/Disseminate the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) so that they can have access to health professionals quickly and easily;
  • Promotecalming, energizing or relaxing breaks(yes, yes!), in order to allow resources to decompress and unwind, to then be able to refocus on tasks.

Why make it a point to support the psychological health of employees? For strategic reasons of attracting and retaining talent, to ensure productivity and high performance, but above all for human reasons. There are obvious risks of psychological exhaustion, for personal or professional reasons.

Talking about mental health helps, it has been proven time and time again. If you bury your head in the sand or trivialize it, you will very possibly have to deal with absence and disability costs. But talking about “mental health” also means “taking responsibility”. You are not the healthcare professional, you are the employer. Your role is to ensure that your employees are able to work, if not to direct them to available resources. If they need accommodations, that will be the subject of our article next week!


Elyse Marineau

Organizational development consultant

Specialized in human resources

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