A more up-to-date subpage of OHCOW’s COVID-related resources, is also available here.
March 25, 2020
Mental Health Resources and Tips
Given the community spread and severity of Covid-19, OHCOW strongly recommends self-isolation when and wherever possible; however remember to take care of yourself and others (from a distance)!
We recognize that the disturbing and uncertain world situation, the barrage of related information, and isolation itself can be stressful and overwhelming for many. OHCOW would like to remind workers, employers and their families to keep in touch with each other, and take care of their mental health and well-being by sharing the following: Tips for workers on ways to cope with feelings of anxiety or stress during this difficult time; Steps employers can take to minimize workplace stress; Community connection information and Related Resources
Tips for Workers
Our lifestyles are all disrupted, with thousands of people working from home and/or self-isolating, while many others continue to work under strained or risky conditions. Such circumstances can easily generate uncertainty, discomfort, and feelings of frustration. According to CAMH, it is normal to be anxious and worried at such stressful times
With more and more people working from home, others having to self-isolate, and still others having to continue to work under alarming conditions, our lifestyles are changing. This brings uncertainty, discomfort and even feelings of frustration.
In their “COVID-19 and Mental Health at Work” document the Government of Canada has provided some useful tips to consider when it comes to your mental health:
- Get information from reliable sources (such as those provided in our previous updates)
- Stay informed but follow news coverage about COVID-19 in moderation. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly.
- Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep.
- Make time to step back and consider how to take advantage of unexpected flexibility in your daily routine.
- Stay connected. Talk to friends or family about your feelings and concerns.
- Maintain healthy relationships and respect other people’s feelings and decisions.
- Show support and empathy to those dealing with difficult situations.
- Identify what is within your control and try to direct your energy towards what most worries you within your own control.
OHCOW offers a StressAssess app available in Apple, Android, and Web versions that can help you keep an eye on your stress levels and understand better any workplace factors that impact them.
Employer Stress Prevention Steps
As suggested by Safe Work Australia, some important steps you can take as an employer to eliminate or minimise workplace stress are to:
- be well informed as an employer with information gained through authoritative sources
- regularly communicate with workers and share relevant information as it comes to hand
- consult your workers on any risks to their psychological health and how these can be managed
- determine appropriate control measures taking account of official information sources and workplace consultation
- provide workers with a point of contact to discuss their concerns and to find workplace information in a central place
- inform workers about their entitlements if they become unfit for work or have caring responsibilities
- proactively support workers who you identify may be more at risk of workplace psychological injury (e.g. frontline workers or those working from home)
- Refer workers to appropriate channels to support workplace mental health and wellbeing such as employee assistance programs.
StressAssess also comes as a workplace survey, which can help identify psychosocial hazards and their impact. While generally recommended when organizations are operating as “normal,” this is also a tool that can anonymously and confidentially highlight issues in a “new (even if temporary) normal.”
A number of additional Mental Health Links can be found below; however, we would also like to encourage individuals to follow local circumstances and guidance from your public health unit, many of which are providing regular updates as well as links to resources and assistance that may be available in your community. This will be particularly helpful for anyone with elderly parents, family with underlying health conditions, young children, or a neighbour who may need some assistance. Here is a link to all 35 Ontario Public Health Units.
Another valuable resource is the 211 Ontario website where you can find programs and support services available in your community should you, or others, need to access these.
More Related Resources
Canadian Mental Health Association – 6 Tips to Respond to Employee Anxiety about COVID-19
- Coping with Stress and Anxiety
- Quarantine and Isolation
- Stigma and Prejudice
Mental Health Commission of Canada – Choosing sources of information carefully is critical to COVID-19 mental well-being says Mental Health Commission of Canada
Mental Health First Aid – Mental Health First Aid COVID-19 Self-Care & Resilience Guide
National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) – Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – A Parent Resource
The Conference Board of Canada: A Selection of 7-9 minute videos on Mental Health and COVID-19
March 18, 2020
Staying Apart to Stay Healthy
As stated below, beginning Monday, March 16, 2020, the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) has joined (and is commending) the many businesses, government offices and institutions that are standing united in a global shared battle against COVID-19 by implementing social distancing. All Clinics and the Provincial Office are closed to protect, and ensure the health & safety of, staff, clinicians, patients, clients and the public.
However, OHCOW operations will not be interrupted. We are working across the organization to ensure all employees are well-equipped for working from home in order to continue to provide a high-level of service and support to the workers and workplaces of the province. Don’t hesitate to call or email if we can answer questions, recommend tools and resources, provide consulting and knowledge translation services, or organize patient registration and follow-up. Contact information is available at: https://www.ohcow.on.ca/contact.html
International experience demonstrates that social distancing is the only effective method to control the spread of the virus, and it is in the best interests of employees, families, health care workers and our communities. By implementing this strategy (at work and at home), we are doing our part to limit the spread of COVID-19, reducing the risk of exposure and transmission. We challenge others to do the same!
Social distancing goes beyond the workplace – consider some of the following outside of work as well:
- Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough
- Avoid non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush hour, when possible
- Work from home, when & where possible.
- Avoid large gatherings, and gatherings in smaller public spaces such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, theatres, bars, clubs
- Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media
- Use telephone or online services to contact your doctor or other essential services if/when the need arises
We strongly advise individuals to follow these measures as much as they are able over the coming weeks and months, including to significantly limit face-to-face interaction with friends and family when/where possible, particularly if you (or they):
- are over 70
- have an underlying health condition; or
- are pregnant
For more comprehensive social distancing ideas and strategies check out the links below as well as Public Health sites in previous updates:
Remember: While you may not feel sick, and while we know these measures are an inconvenience, please be mindful of the members of our community who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others. We are all in this together.
Visit OHCOW’s website to find lots of information and resources about occupational health, occupational disease prevention, and workplace mental health including videos of past educational events which we encourage you to watch:
Mayday, Mayday 2019: https://www.ohcow.on.ca/news/mayday-mayday-2019.html
Occ-tober 2019: https://www.ohcow.on.ca/news/occ-tober-2019.html
RSI+ Day 2020: https://www.ohcow.on.ca/2020rsiday.html
As well as our brand new Occupational Health Podcasts “OH-PODS” – first episode: Office Ergonomics – Getting Started
Other resources that could be of use include:
Ontario’s health environment is changing rapidly. We all need to be conscientious, fluid and flexible. OHCOW is hoping to re-open by April 14, 2020, but we will monitor the COVID-19 situation as it continues to evolve, and will provide further updates as they become available.
March 15, 2020
Stay Healthy: Doors closed but we’re open!
OHCOW is open for business, however as part of our STAY HEALTHY approach to the COVID-19 pandemic all locations (Clinics & Provincial Office) will be closed for a month to protect and ensure the health & safety of clients and staff from COVID-19.
OHCOW’s COVID-19 Response Team met on Friday, March 13th, and recommended we institute and support social distancing immediately by physically closing the Clinics/Provincial Office and working from home when and wherever possible until Tuesday, April 14th.
Effective Monday, March 16th, all in-person OHCOW services will be discontinued
• Patients and visitors will not be seen during this time
• Individuals with booked appointments will be contacted to discuss alternate arrangements
• We will be maintaining OHCOW services from a distance (answering inquiries, supporting workplaces, providing knowledge translation and working on patient cases).
• Meetings, workplace visits and presentations will be attended / provided virtually
• All business related travel will be cancelled
We are in the process of finalizing the logistics for all Staff to work from home. We recognize that these unprecedented measures will be disruptive and this process may cause some delay in receiving and replying to voice messages and emails. Please be patient, we will reply as quickly as we are able.
We trust that our patients, clients, and partners will understand that our STAY HEALTHY approach with the implementation of the above measures are necessary and being implemented for the benefit of all. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation in these extraordinary times, especially our employees, who are working diligently to ensure our services can be effectively maintained as this complex situation unfolds.
These recommendations are planned to be in effect until Monday April 13th inclusive. The OHCOW COVID-19 response team will continue to monitor the situation and provide further updates and recommendations over the coming weeks, prior to the clinics being reopened.
How Can Employers and Workers Prepare?
The COVID-19 situation is a rapidly evolving threat to Ontario’s public health, with an increased risk of more severe outcomes for those aged 65 and over, those with compromised immune systems and those with underlying health conditions. To help reduce the risk of infection a concerted effort of personal and community hygiene and social distancing is crucial.
Employers and employees have a role to play in reducing the spread of infection.
• Remind your employees, contractors and customers to remain home when ill.
• Promote good hygiene and cough etiquette by all employees and customers:
– Wash hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
– Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
– Use tissues and throw them away.
Employers should prepare for possible disruption of business.
• We recommend employers not require medical notes from employees during this time.
• Make sure your workplace conducts routine cleaning of frequently used surfaces and objects (such as phones, doorknobs, toilets and keyboards).
• Prepare a plan on who will carry on with your business in the event of absenteeism, and how you would accommodate working from home if employees are recovering or asked to stay at home for an extended period of time.
• Advise employees and contractors to consult national travel advice before going on business or personal trips.
For more information
• PHAC: For workplaces
Workers: How to protect yourself and others
• Recognize the risk of attending public gatherings and to practice social distancing as much as possible until further notice to manage the spread of illness.
• Maintain social distancing; at least 2 metres between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. When someone coughs or sneezes, they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth, which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
• Wash your hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. DO NOT use surface disinfectant wipes to clean your hands.
• Reduce the spread by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
• Avoid touching your face, specifically your eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Avoid contact with people who are sick.
• Stay home if you are sick.
• Stay up to date on Government of Canada Travel Advice and Advisories.
• Do not visit people in hospitals or long-term care facilities if you are sick.
• Keep surfaces cleaned and disinfected.
For more information:
Available sources of trusted information:
March 11, 2020
Clinics remain open with pre-screening and screening procedures in place, potentially limiting entry for the protection of our patints and staff.
If you have an appointment or are attending a meeting at one of our clinics, and you are experiencing any symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breathe or you have travelled to any of the affected areas, or been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19, please call the clinic in advance as we will need to reschedule your appointment.