Time for a temperature check on mental health

By: Angela Splinter

Trucking HR Canada recently conducted an informal “temperature check” survey of employers and employees about the topic of mental health in the workplace.

While the intent was to gather information over our social media channels for a federal consultation on the topic, what we heard from respondents was alarming.

Considering the pressure, the pandemic has brought to bear, it was no surprise to hear that the number of workers concerned about their psychological health is rising. What’s astonishing is how pervasive COVID-19-related mental health issues are among the entire workforce, leaving a swath of stressed-out people – from the driver’s seat to the shop, to the office.

The survey results and the discussions we’ve had since have prompted us to take a close look at how stress, isolation, family matters, financial pressure, and other factors affect the mental health and safety of people in trucking and logistics.

COVID-19 looks like it’ll be with us for a while, and we want to help employers develop strategies to help their employees cope with life at work and home and feel better about themselves and their work.

Here’s what we’re learning.

There is a stigma around mental health

By far, survey respondents said COVID-19 is the main reason for observed decreases in their overall wellbeing and mental health in the workplace. Other factors cited (in order) are workplace stress; poor work-life balance; organizational restructuring; increased workload; and financial stress.

A large number of respondents acknowledged that employees are more aware of their general state of mental health and feel more comfortable discussing it at work. However, respondents also indicated that stigma surrounding mental health is something that many contend with, meaning that there may still be reluctance to report a mental health issue at work. One person said the stigma around mental health includes a fear of experiencing employment repercussions (e.g., losing their license).

This suggests that an effective intervention to reduce stigma in the trucking and logistics industry would also need to involve a dialogue among many different actors: employer organizations, employee organizations, health and safety bodies, insurance providers, and others.

Everyone is affected, but the more vulnerable are affected most.

In trying to determine which individuals within the workforce faced the greatest degree of COVID-19-related psychological distress, we found that occupational categories were the most frequently cited factor. Nevertheless, it was shown that certain issues can come into play to make individual circumstances particularly important to understanding the full picture.

For example, respondents who cited these factors tend to be affected the most:

  • Those with pre-existing mental health concerns
  • Those working from home with young children
  • Those working in close quarters

It’s also important to consider the experiences of different demographic groups. Notably, the mental health of women in the industry was highlighted as a concern, particularly the manner in which female employees were treated by clients and—at times, by those they work with. Also highlighted as a concern was the mental health of younger men (under 30 years of age) within the industry.

For an industry looking to increase the participation of women and young people, these issues warrant further attention.

Help the helpers

Our survey results showed that employees in certain occupations have a higher risk or are more vulnerable to experiencing psychological injuries and illnesses.

Without a doubt, truck drivers demand special attention given their work conditions, with respondents citing familiar themes of isolation/solitude, unhealthy diets, and low physical activity. COVID-19-related factors included daily stress stemming from poor access to facilities such as washrooms, or access to good options for nutrition.

However, our survey highlighted other occupations of concern, notably (in order):

  • Dispatchers
  • HR staff
  • Office administration staff

It’s significant that the reported rate of mental health effects on HR staff was the closest to the prevalence rate of drivers. COVID-19 has exacerbated negative outcomes for dispatchers, who have had to bear the brunt of changes in routes and driver availability.

The fact that we look to HR managers, dispatchers, administrators, and others to support our drivers is important to remember as you develop plans to address mental health. The need to recognize and manage mental health across all occupations has perhaps been underestimated in the past.

As we brace for a longer recovery period from the pandemic, employers may want to consider a temperature check of their own workforces’ mental health.

Post-pandemic profitability will depend on it.

Seven steps to help you comply with Canada’s new rules on workplace violence and harassment

By: Angela Splinter

It’s certainly been an interesting start to the new year.

As COVID-19 and divisive politics rage on, the trucking and logistics industry continues to put its collective shoulder to the wheel in 2021 to keep the economy rolling. We’re thankful for truck drivers, dispatchers, technicians, and others who move the goods that are essential to our everyday lives.

To help keep these workers safe and productive, Canada Labour Code regulations came into force on January 1 aimed at reducing the risk of workplace harassment and violence. All federally regulated employers should be ready for the new rules, outlined in Bill C-65 and the Workplace Harassment and Violence Regulations.

We’re here with resources to help you comply. Here are seven to get you started:

1.Assess your workplace risk

Employers need to identify risks related to harassment and violence in their workplace and, within six months of identifying these risks, implement preventive measures.

Consider what you can do to assess and reduce these risks. Not sure where to start? Click here to see our risk assessment checklist.

2.Develop a policy against harassment and violence

The regulations have specific requirements for a workplace harassment and violence prevention policy. Make sure your policy complies and that it’s available to all employees. You have a responsibility to ensure all employees are aware of the policy and are appropriately trained.

We have resources to help you here, too. Click here to access our policy template and checklist.

3.Establish emergency procedures

Employers must have formal processes in place in the event of harassment or violence that poses immediate danger to the health and safety of an employee.

Our policy template has tips to help you.

4.Train your employees

All employees (including management) are required to undergo harassment and violence training by Jan. 1, 2022. New employees must receive training within three months of being hired. Employees must be re-trained at least once every three years and following any updates to the training (or if they are assigned to a new role where there is a greater risk of workplace harassment or violence).

Work with your policy committee, workplace committee, or health and safety representative to determine your training needs.

Click here to learn more about our Learning Centre and online courses.

5.Designate someone to receive complaints

Employers are required to appoint a “designated recipient” of harassment and violence complaints. The designated recipient can be an individual or team that is appropriately trained to receive complaints, manage the complaint process, and follow the complaint-resolution procedures outlined in the regulations.

If you don’t have someone qualified for the role, they can become qualified through training.

Click here for resources to help you with the designated recipient role.

6.Communicate your policies

Employers must compile a list of nearby medical, psychological, and other support resources and share it with employees through the workplace harassment and violence prevention policy. They also must file an annual report to the Minister Labour documenting their policy and compliance.

Overall, it’s vital that senior leaders within your organization understand the importance of these regulations and the necessary commitment. Consider adding “workplace harassment and violence discussion” to the next executive team meeting so there is a robust conversation about the new rules and how the company plans to address them.

Keeping this as a frequent agenda item will ensure it remains top of mind.

7.Talk to us

Trucking HR Canada has been working on materials to help address these changes to the Canada Labour Code for nearly two years now. Our training resources are specific to trucking and logistics and were developed specifically in response to Bill C-65 and the new workplace harassment and violence rules. We have worked with Labour Canada, employment lawyers, labour groups, and HR professionals to make sure our standards of excellence are met.

We all benefit from workplaces that are free of harassment and violence. And we are here to help employers make that happen.