A recent Statistics Canada survey suggests that the majority of Canadians are following, and presumably getting more comfortable with, the safety measures and rules now guiding our social interactions and day-to-day activities. However, the survey also revealed that many Canadians have concerns about going back to their regular place of work amidst the ongoing pandemic. The survey, conducted from June 15 to 21, was the third in a series designed to explore Canadians’ perspectives on resuming economic and social activities during the pandemic.
For employees who have been working from home (or absent from their physical workplace) and are now preparing to head back to their office or work location, nearly 4 in 10 reported that “they did not feel safe returning to work”. The survey also found that perceptions of how safe it is to return to work varied by region. For example, more than 40% of the respondents in Quebec and Ontario reported that they did not feel safe returning to their workplace compared to 25% of those in other parts of the country. People living in urban areas were also more likely to have concerns about returning to work than people living in rural areas.
Fear of contracting the virus and fear of infecting family members were the most common reasons given for feeling unsafe about returning to a physical workplace.
What employers can do to alleviate concerns
The survey also asked what measures would help people to feel more at ease and comfortable about returning to work. Nearly three-quarters of those who indicated they had concerns about returning to work said they would like to see employers increase workplace sanitization and instruct employees to stay home if they have COVID-19 symptoms. Other precautions that received strong support (60% or higher) were workspace modifications to allow for physical distancing, offering masks and other personal protective equipment, and entrance screening.
Mental health issues also need attention
While fears of returning to the workplace stem from physical health reasons, they can also amount to a great deal of stress and anxiety leading to potential mental health issues. Indeed, mental health has been a major area of concern since the World Health Organization proclaimed the pandemic in March, 2020. The Conference Board of Canada recently announced preliminary evidence suggesting that 16-28% of our population will experience symptoms of anxiety and depression as a direct result of the pandemic. For organizations and businesses planning to bring employees back to the workplace, the Board says that “employers need to be prepared to support mental health as well as employee safety and physical health.”
A recent Nanos Research poll also supports the need to address the additional stress that people have been shouldering with the onset of the pandemic.
“The ‘I’m fine’ theme of this year’s Mental Health Week captures the key message of this poll,” said Louise Bradley, president and CEO of the MHCC. “When we say we are ‘fine,’ we may not always mean it. I hope this survey reminds everyone that it’s normal to feel stressed, anxious, or preoccupied during this outbreak. There is no shame in admitting as much, and there is certainly no shame in taking advantage of all the resources at your disposal to help you feel better.”
“We must not only fight the virus. We’ve also got to fight the stigma that is likely preventing people from feeling comfortable seeking help and support,” said Bradley. “The more we invest in our wellness now, the better off we will be on the other side of COVID-19.”
Corridor’s Returning to Work with Confidence During COVID-19 online learning application is specifically for employees who are returning to their place of work amidst the pandemic. This brief online program offers stress reduction strategies, insights and mental health information to help support employees during this challenging time. Contact us for more information or to view a demo.