Safety Swap: Mental Health in the Workplace during COVID-19

Safety Swap: Mental Health in the Workplace during COVID-19

​​​​​​​​​​The COVID-19 pandemic, and public health measures to hSafety Swapelp prevent the spread, are having an effect on ​mental health both inside and outside the workplace. Workplace psychological health and safety is more important than ever.

Use this Safety Swap to lead a discussion on how your committee can support those who are struggling, and promote a positive workplace safety culture — both physically and mentally.

Questions that could be used to start discussion:

1. What ar​e some reasons a co-worker might be experiencing mental health concerns related to COVID-19?

Workers in any role or industry can experience a change in their mental health due to the pandemic. Fear of catching and spreading COVID-19, changes in their work (such as working at home), fatigue from changes in hours or pace of work, and conflicts between work obligations and personal life can all affect mental health during this time. 

These psychological hazards may be compounded by changing public health restrictions, concerns about job security, isolation, or a negative workplace safety culture. Some personal reasons could include a worker's health, past experiences, living situation, and family concerns. 

​Discuss other reasons you can think of. Be aware that everyone's situation is different, and that it's important to recognize and acknowledge the difficulties COVID-19 can cause in your co-workers' lives.

You can also use observational and conversational skills during inspections to help you identify psychological hazards related to COVID-19 in your workplace. This resource on recognizing psychological health and safety hazards will provide​ some tips.​

2. How can a committee member help if a co-worker approaches them about COVID-19 psychological hazards?

  1. Explore the situation — Ask your co-worker how they are doing. Actively listen to them, maintain an environment of trust, be kind and non-judgmental, and set a positive tone. Validate their concerns and try to understand where the concern is coming from, but avoid giving advice and resist making judgments or conclusions about the situation. Committee members should not diagnose a worker's state of mental health. Ask your co-worker whether or not they've already talked to their supervisor about their concerns.
  2. Encourage action —When your co-worker is ready, they may consider talking to their supervisor about the psychological hazards they're facing. Recognize that this might be difficult for your co-worker. Let your co-worker know that sharing medical information is not required. Your committee can also take action by bringing forward issues, and making recommendations for improvements, if you identify potential or existing psychological hazards while talking to a co-worker or during an inspection. This should be done while maintaining confidentiality.
  3. Seek additional support — Know what resources are available, such as an Employee Assistance Program, and provide them to your co-worker. For example, Manitoba Public Health has a variety of free resources​ for Manitobans experiencing mild to moderate anxiety related to COVID-19. Find links to more resources at the end of this Safety Swap.
  4. Look after yourself — Know your own limitations, and understand when you need to seek help and protect your own psychological health and safety.
We recommend the Mental Health: Communications Strategies​ e-course for additional training.

If a co-worker is in crisis, get help. Call Klinic's province-wide 24/7 crisis line at 204-786-8686 or 1-888-322-3019. Other mental health crisis support can be found on the Government of Manitoba's Mental Health Crisis and ​Non-Crisis Regional Contacts page.

3. How can our committee contribute to a more psychologically healthy and safe workplace, now and after the pandemic?

Your committee should act as a trusted resource about psychological health and safety, by providing reliable and credible information to all your co-workers and bringing concerns forward to management. This is important during and after the pandemic. Here are some tips:
  • Help to create and maintain an environment of trust and honesty so that your co-workers feel they can come to you about psychological hazards related to COVID.
  • Know what mental health supports are available in your workplace and community, and ensure your co-workers are aware of these resources. See below for a resource list.
  • Add psychological health and COVID-19 to your inspection checklist. Survey or talk to workers to determine where there may be concerns. When you identify psychological health hazards, make recommendations to your employer for improvements.
  • Provide education on psychological health and safety in the workplace, to increase awareness and break down stigma.
  • Review workplace policies and programs for psychological health hazards, and bring any concerns to management.
  • Consider Mental Health First Aid training, and ensure your co-workers know who is trained.
  • Discuss how your workplace could implement the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.
Are there other actions you can take, or are already doing? Discuss your ideas.​​

4. Where can our committee get further training related to psychological health and safety in the workplace?

There are several training options, many of which are being offered virtually. They include the following:

Top Tips

  1. Help create a safe, honest and fair environment where your co-workers feel safe to discuss psychological health hazards and COVID-19.
  2. Learn and use effective communication strategies.
  3. Know what mental health resources are available (see a list below).
  4. Get training on psychological health and safety in the workplace.​

Additional Resources

Mental health community resources

​Share your ideas!

Share your ideas! If you would like to share your best practices with other safety and health committee leaders, we'd like to hear from you. Your idea might be featured in an upcoming issue of Safety Swap! Email for more information.

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