Employers focusing on engagement, mental health of remote workers

Employers are increasingly focusing on the engagement and mental health of employees working remotely as the coronavirus pandemic drags on, according to a webinar hosted by Medavie Blue Cross on Tuesday.

“We’ve faced lots of crises in the travel industry, from Sept. 11 to the 2008 economic crash,” said Christophe Hennebelle, vice-president of human resources and corporate affairs at Transat A.T. Inc. “But with the pandemic, we’ve all had to learn and adapt from a health and hygiene perspective. In the beginning, we saw [employee assistance program] usage levels drop.”

Read: Survey shows strong support for flexible, remote working post-coronavirus

The drop in EAP use was alarming, he said, as the airline expected usage to rise. As a result Transat proactively increased training to help employees deal with the new normal.

Similarly, Angela Racco, director of HR at Hotel X Toronto by Library Hotel Collection, said the importance of employees’ mental health became apparent early on. “One employee asked after the second update to not receive emails from the hotel. I reached out and realized very early that mental health was going to be extremely important, as being home and not knowing what to do with their time would take its toll. Our EAP was a great asset and continues to be.”

Doug Jones, president and chief executive officer at WorkSafeNB, said that while remote working has boosted employee satisfaction at the organization, he’s also grateful for increased access to mental-health support. “A lot of times, we’d get things in our email, like a mental-health webinar. It was encouraging to see the psychological support community pull together and offer things at no additional charge.”

Read: 60% of Canadians with mental-health concerns not using workplace support tools

And while remote working wasn’t possible for frontline health-care workers, some unique measures were taken in the long-term care sector, said Sharon Ranalli, vice-president of marketing and communications at Chartwell Master Care, also speaking during the webinar.

“If we had an outbreak at a home, those workers couldn’t go home to their families. We found that individuals were choosing to sleep in their cars. We put them up in hotels so they weren’t worried about where they were staying or bringing the virus to their families.”