Workplace Mental Health
Mental health at work is crucial for worker wellness and engagement. The crisis, challenges and trauma of the Covid pandemic and lockdowns, that profoundly disrupted both personal lives and the workplace, have put mental health front and center. Dialogue and discussion are the key to help strengthen workplace mental health initiatives and make the future of work, in a post-pandemic world, psychologically safe and healthy.
OHCOW has been a prevention system leader in Workplace Mental Health since 2011, when we worked with academic and labour partners to research survey tools. Many tools created by OHCOW such as the StressAssess Survey are still used regularly as a starting point to help ignite that discussion.
OHCOW has been a leader in the Prevention System with respect to Workplace Mental Health and Injury Prevention since 2011 when we worked with labour and academic partners to create the Mental Injury Toolkit which is still regularly one of our top 20 website downloads. The Toolkit is based on the use of the Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire to identify workplace factors that contribute to stress and mental harm.
OHCOW has since converted the COPSOQ and other validated research questions into the personal and workplace versions of the StressAssess survey tool. The tool can be used to “take the temperature” of a workplace or evaluate the impact of changes by establishing a baseline and then doing iterative surveys every 1 or 2 years. It includes national comparison data generated every ~3 years by EKOS on OHCOW’s behalf (2016, 2019 and 2023). The survey is “self-serve” but we also offer additional support to workplace parties if they would like the data analysed in more detail or some assistance with responding to the information in a constructive and positive way. In 22/23 several dozen self-serve surveys were created plus OHCOW’s multi-disciplinary WMH Community of Practice staff supported more than 10 workplaces/groups (ranging from 33 to 10000 workers) with additional analysis, knowledge translation and especially figuring out next steps. Several StressAssess stories, as well as other current Workplace mental Health research, resources and services, were highlighted at OHCOW’s annual Mayday, Mayday webinar series.
Mental Health in the Workplace
The 2022 Mayday, Mayday! Webinar series took a closer look at the personal and societal problems affecting workplaces. Issues of addiction, bullying, foreign workers and international perspectives were addressed over five webinars.
Session 1 April 29, 2022
Addiction and Opioid Harm Reduction at Work
- – Chronic Pain and the Mental Health Impact of Disablement; Dr. Fergal O’Hagan, Department of Psychology, Trent University
- – Understanding Mental Health and Opioids During Return-to-Work (RTW), Research Findings; Dr. Ellen MacEachen, School of Public Health Sciences, University of Waterloo
- – We Are All in This Together, Supporting Workers and Fighting Addiction in the Workplace; Sari Sairanen, Health, Safety & Environment Director, Unifor National: Mike Byrne, Unifor EFAP Liaison
- – Listen to the Voices of Experience: A Worker Perspective; Wayne Harris, RSE, UA Local 853 Executive Board and Toronto VP for ONIWG
Session 2 May 6, 2022
Violence, Harrassment and Bullying in the Workplace
- – Digital Harassment as a New Workplace Risk; Rebecka Cowen Forsell, PhD., Assistant Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Organization at Malmö University, Sweden
- – Changes in Offensive Behaviour Experience During the Pandemic; John Oudyk, Occupational Hygienist, OHCOW
- – Violence and Harassment in the Workplace; Andrew Falotico, Health and Safety Representative, Allied Transit Union (ATU) 113
Session 3 May 13, 2022
Survey Experiences and Insights from Around the World
- – How to (Not) Go Mad at Work in Chile: Mandatory Assessing and Intervening with a Sentinel Event in the Workplace; Juan M Pérez Franco, Profesional, Unidad de Prevención y Vigilancia, Intendencia de Seguridad y Salud en el Trabajo, Superintendencia de Seguridad Social Ministerio del Trabajo | Gobierno de Chile
- – Job Stressors and Burnout: Does the Relationship Run in Both Directions? Faraz Vahid Shahidi, Associate Scientist, Institute for Work & Health and Assistant Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto
- – Addressing Psychosocial Factors in the Workplace – A Partnership Between Union and Employer; From the Correctional Services Division of the Ministry of the Solicitor of Ontario: Michelle MacLean, Correctional Officer and Vice-Chair (Union) of the Provincial Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee; Denise Sidsworth, Probation and Parole Officer and member (Union) of the Provincial Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee, and more…
Session 4 May 20, 2022
Diverse Perspectives on Workplace Mental Health
- – Psychologists’ Perspectives on Improving Workplace Mental Health; Dr. Deborah Scharf, PhD CPsych, Associate Professor of Psychology, Lakehead University; Dr. Mandy McMahan, PhD CPsych (ON); Clinical, Health, and Counselling Psychologist; Vice President, Professional Services and Business Strategy and Development, Odyssey Health Services
- – When Domestic Violence Enters the Workplace; Dr. Kari Sampsel, Emergency Physician and Medical Director of the Sexual Assault and Partner Abuse Care Program at the Ottawa hospital
- – The Healthy Work Survey: Progress and Challenges in Year One; Marnie Dobson, Ph.D., Director of the Healthy Work Campaign
Session 5 May 27, 2022
Workplace Mental Health Interventions and Other Solutions
- – Practice-based Strategies for Designing Organizational Wellness Interventions; Kelly McShane, PhD, CPsych, CE
- – Building on Successive Surveys: A Worthwhile Investment; Enzo Garritano, President and CEO, Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA)
- – Supporting the Mental Health of Ontario Agricultural Workers; Eduardo Huesca, Community Program and Outreach Coordinator and Leonor Cedillo, Research Lead, OMAFRA Project, OHCOW
Published Peer-Reviewed Papers: Educators During the Pandemic
OHCOW is also quite involved in research in the WMH sphere, as part of the COPSOQ network and with other partners from around the world. In 22/23 we were named in 3 publications. More information, including links to related presentations can be found on our Workplace Mental Health Landing Page
The pandemic changed education and the lives of students and teachers. Teachers switched from in-person classroom teaching to online technology. Restrictions were in place when in-person classes resumed, such as masking, social distancing, and hybrid learning. Educators had to balance the requirements of teaching with keeping students, and themselves, safe. A pair of peer-reviewed papers by the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) and Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) describes how these policies affected Ontario educators. It was a needed perspective, as the bulk of study looking at the effects of pandemic restrictions in schools had focused on children. OHCOW Hygienist John Oudyk and Researcher Leonor Cedillo were co-authors of the papers.
Educators and the Pandemic: In-Person vs. Virtual
The psychosocial work environment among educators during the COVID-19 pandemic, was published in Occupational Medicine in June 2022. It’s aim was “To compare various dimensions of the psychosocial work environment and health outcomes between educators engaged in online learning to those engaged in in-person learning in the Canadian province of Ontario.” The paper looks at the “growing evidence base on the potential advantages and disadvantages of school closures as they relate to the mental and physical health of students, their families, and the broader community.”
Keeping Educators Safe
The second paper, Perceived Adequacy of Infection Control Practices and Symptoms of Anxiety Among In-Person Elementary School Educators in Ontario, was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in November 2022. It looks at the adequacy of infection control practices was connected to anxiety among educators in Ontario. Its findings highlighted the importance of adequate administrative and engineering controls in schools, not only to minimize risk of infection, but also for educator’s mental health.
Young Workers in Public Transportation Services
Essential Public Services, Essential Workers’ Health: Union-based initiatives to protect the Mental Health of Young Public Transport Workers.
Accessible, Critical Information for Foreign Workers
Foreign workers experience isolation and stress when they come to Ontario’s agricultural communities for temporary work. They are away from their families and culture. OHCOW partners with other organizations to help them adjust, meet other workers and know that they are not alone. Along with other print and social media materials, in 2022 OHCOW published a playlist of videos that explain the various types of supports and services available to international agricultural workers. The short videos are available in English and Spanish, and cover topics such as health care services and community connection and support. They address their rights as workers in Ontario, and advise on reporting cases of abuse and safety infractions.