Donna Carbell
Head of Group Benefits, Manulife Canada

Whether in an office, on a construction site, taking orders at a restaurant, or anything in between, the way we do business has changed dramatically over the last several months.

We’ve made a lot of progress and economic recovery is underway, but COVID-19 is still affecting Canadian workplaces. And as we face surrounding ourselves with coworkers and customers again, we have to ask the question, “Are we doing this safely?”

I’m thrilled to share our Return to Work Guide, which may help you minimize risk and maximize the well-being of you and your employees as you get back to your workplace. It includes guidance around personal safety, general information on COVID-19, recommendations on personal protective equipment and much more. There are also industry-specific recommendations for hygiene and distancing, and information on how to access your province’s latest safety recommendations.

Large or small - the challenge is the same

Right now, both large corporations and small companies are asking, “How do we set up our employees for success while also dealing with new health and safety concerns that have the potential to compromise our employees, our business and the economy?”

Our focus as a group benefits provider is on keeping organizations and employees healthy. While this pandemic is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, I believe our experience developing healthy workplace strategies puts us in a position to help businesses answer that question.

For me, it’s not just about physical safety. The stress and anxiety around returning to a workplace after months of physical distancing is bound to have an impact on mental health. We know your employees feel uneasy, and you must too. Some of the key ideas from the guide that stand out for me are:

  • Consider having a Health and Safety leader or team that focuses on COVID-19. Ask them to be the first point of contact in the event there are workplace or community cases that could pose a risk to fellow employees. Ask them to stay on top of best practices. Sharing the responsibility and accountability can bring new minds and ideas into your planning, while offering another line of defence to help you be proactive instead of reactive.
  • Now is a good time to review and revise your approach to mental health protection. Faced with new stresses and worries, employees might need permission and time to add physical activity into their day. It could be as simple as encouraging a walk or offering space and time to stretch throughout the day.
  • Supporting proper lines of communication is essential. Creating opportunities for employees to communicate their anxieties clearly with management can make a big difference.

Looking forward to the future of work

While you may need a crystal ball to predict how the workforce will look in the future, in the short term we know that to return to work safely, we’re going to have to take new steps to protect ourselves from the physical and mental impact of COVID-19.

I hope you find our guide informative and useful. Reach out to your advisor or Manulife representative for additional resources or if you have any questions.