COVID-19 UPDATE: Psychologically Safe Workplaces

We know this is a very difficult time for public sector workers in all sectors — those on the front lines and behind the scenes, those who have been ordered to work from home, those working without child care, and those who are facing layoffs, not to mention the general anxiety as our world as we know it changes hour by hour. Staff and union executives are working very hard to make sure important information is shared with our members and that members’ concerns are responded to as quickly as possible.

We appreciate everything our members are doing to hold it together. Please do not hesitate to contact union staff or executive if there is anything we can do to help.

Tips for maintaining a psychologically safe workplace during a pandemic

CUPE is proud to be on the leading edge of psychological health and safety practices in the workplace. Psychological health and safety is focused on preventing mental injuries in much the same way that traditional health and safety has been focused on preventing physical injuries.

With the world focused on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, the sense of feeling psychologically safe and supported in the workplace could be seriously compromised.

For those still in a physical workplace, especially those supporting or treating people who have been infected, it may become easy to allow work conflicts to develop due to the understandable stresses everyone is under. This is a time for colleagues to pull together and have a heightened sense of awareness about how our actions, especially in our interactions with colleagues, can affect each other. This pandemic has seen people pull together in ways we haven’t seen in generations; we need to take that same approach to work with us everyday and create a safe place to share our mental health concerns and allow everyone to feel supported.

The Canadian Mental Health Commission has created a resource called “Not Myself today” that can help individuals and organizations facilitate these conversations:

For those who are now working from home, work might be starting to feel very lonely especially as the barriers between “work” and “home” start to blur. Here are a few tips to keep you feeling connected and supported.

  • Talk to your work colleagues using video conferencing if possible. There are many programs available that allow face to face interactions from the comfort of our own homes.
  • Develop and stick to routines, like getting dressed for work, taking a lunch break away from your workspace and setting start and end times for your day. When work happens in the same location as the rest of your life, it can quickly take over all your time without firm boundaries.
  • Fight the urge to send another email. Being stuck in your home it may become tempting to replace face to face conversations with emails but that is further limiting yourself and your colleagues from opportunities for social contact and psychological support. Use the phone, make the call and, just like when you’re talking in person, ask them how they day is going and share a little bit about yours.