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Rebecca is enjoying working from home, but it wasn’t always this way. Several months ago, when she was required to make the switch to remote work due to COVID-19, she found the change difficult to manage. The inability to connect with her colleagues and supervisor in person was stressful and she was feeling anxious and alone. Being conscious of Rebecca’s well-being, her manager was able to adjust her workload, seek to understand her needs, and provide equipment so that she could feel better about working from home. Knowing that she had the support from her manager Rebecca was able to tap into her own ability to cope and adjust to the pressures and demands of her situation. She felt more confident, supported, and successful.
Employers and employees with strong emotional intelligence are often equipped to handle a variety of challenges. Drawing from their personal experience and emotional awareness, they can recognize when their colleagues might need their support and when to support themselves during times of adversity. Characterized by empathy, graciousness and balance, people with high emotional intelligence help themselves and their coworkers stay healthy, engaged, and productive at work by fostering an environment of trust and support.
Defining emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage one’s emotions and to cope with environmental demands and pressures. This ability to understand and manage your own emotions to relieve stress, communicate effectively, show empathy, overcome challenges and help defuse conflict, is developed in part from personal life experiences. The idea is that from our own experiences and achievements, we learn and grow, enabling us to better recognize and understand our own emotions and the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence allows us to not only manage our own emotions but the ability to help others manage theirs, for instance, by encouraging them or helping them to calm down.
A workplace with emotionally intelligent workers and employers is often one where there is easy collaboration, clear and simple communication, and a happy environment. This, in turn, can have positive impacts on mental health.
Characteristics of emotionally intelligent people
Emotionally intelligent people understand that change is inevitable and often necessary. As such, they are not reluctant or afraid to adapt. They also know what they are good at, how they like to work, but they understand that they still have more to learn. They are empathetic toward themselves and therefore are in general, able to relate to others. They can appreciate what co-workers or clients are going through which can help everyone through difficult times. While they can be highly motivated, they know perfection is impossible. They have an ability to roll with adversity and learn from their experiences. They recognize the importance of maintaining personal-professional balance in their lives, take care of their personal well-being and have interests outside of work. Rather than judging coworkers, they strive to understand their coworkers’ perspective. They explore possibilities, ask questions, and are open to new solutions. They are gracious. They know that every day brings something to be thankful for, and they feel good about their lives. Possessing all these characteristics and putting them into practice is not always possible but by working at it and developing each of them, our emotional intelligence can be enhanced one step at a time.
Putting emotional intelligence into action
Emotional intelligence relates to both people and their workplace. When leadership embodies and practices the values and characteristics of emotional intelligence, it can motivate employees. This can be seen when a supervisor shows an interest in workers’ overall well-being and an obvious desire to see them succeed. A successful result is the creation of a caring workplace culture and an environment of trust, where workers feel inspired through their emotional connection to their workplace.
One way that employers can use their emotional intelligence to provide motivation is by making sure that every employee understands what is expected of them. At the same time, employers need to work with employees on establishing challenging but attainable goals, giving diverse work assignments that provide the opportunity for learning new skills, and delivering that motivating leadership. This can help build self-awareness, a characteristic of a healthy emotional state. Acknowledging employees when they do a good job has also been shown to encourage them further. Energized and motivated workplaces have what is called positive stress which can be characterized as positive team spirit, and leadership that inspires. In turn, employees that are recognized and rewarded can take their experience and continue to develop their own emotional intelligence.
The worker and employer relationship benefits from their shared awareness of emotional intelligence and a desire to improve it. Rebecca received the emotional, psychological, and work support she needed from her employer and coworkers to help make the successful transition to working from home. While doing so, she supported her own emotional intelligence by being willing to adapt to change and learn from the experience.
To learn more about emotional intelligence, why it matters in the workplace, and how to develop it, listen to this CCOHS podcast episode.
Tips & Tools
Wake up, start your workday, end work, enjoy time for yourself, get a good night’s sleep, repeat. While this routine may seem typical for many workers right now, especially those working from home, there are millions of working Canadians who experience their days quite differently.
Let’s imagine a day in the life of Jia. As a 47-year-old full-time mechanical engineer and team leader, Jia already has a lot on her plate during her eight-hour workday. She often skips her lunch and earned breaks to cram in an extra hour of work so she can feel okay about logging off at 5 p.m. But like many, Jia’s duties don’t end once she logs off from her day job.
In addition to her employer’s extra-high expectations that often leave her logging back on at night, Jia’s time and energy is needed to care for her immune-compromised brother who is unable to leave his home due to the pandemic. In her “spare time”, Jia can be found grocery shopping, doing laundry, picking up prescriptions, and ensuring her brother has everything he needs at home. Jia also needs to remain as isolated as possible so she can continue to care for her brother. “All in a day’s work,” Jia chuckles, but as you may have guessed, Jia is burning out.
Known as “carer-employees”, individuals like Jia make up the 6.1 million Canadians who are both working full-time and providing unpaid caregiving to an adult dependent, like a family member or friend. They can be found in all industries and occupations, and fifty percent (50%) are between the ages of 45-65, representing the most experienced workers in the paid labour market.
Juggling multiple duties can take a toll on carer-employees. Without employer support, they can face issues like job burnout, absenteeism, early retirement, social isolation, or they may quit their jobs. Fortunately, there are ways for employers to help.
Employers are responsible for the health and well-being of their employees and have a big role to play in caring for workers who are also carers. By understanding the needs of their employees and showing compassion, employers can start to make real, tangible changes in the workplace. Establishing a carer-support program that outlines ways to support and accommodate employees facing caregiving challenges while also developing carer-friendly policies will help employees feel supported. In Jia’s case, for example, having her manager balance her workload so it is more manageable and check in with her regularly could help reduce her stress.
To get started on creating a carer-friendly workplace, workplaces can access the free Quick Start Implementation Guide that supports the CSA Group Standard for carer-inclusive and accommodating organizations (B701-17: Carer-inclusive and accommodating organizations). The Quick Start Guide is for all organizations, regardless of employer size or industry sector. Employers are encouraged to apply it to help create practical and effective workplace accommodations for worker-carers – something that is especially needed during these unprecedented times.
With accommodating and inclusive workplace practices in place, worker-carers like Jia can feel confident in their abilities to be productive both at work and outside of their job, while feeling reassured that their employer is looking out for their health and well-being.
Truck drivers are exposed to diesel engine exhaust. Could that explain their 60% increased risk of lung cancer? Are welding fumes driving the 66% increased risk of kidney cancer among welders? And shiftwork may increase the risk of breast cancer. Are healthcare workers at risk?
Workers are regularly exposed to chemicals and hazards on the job. Since people spend roughly one third of their waking lives at work, this can have a big impact on their long-term health. Many of these exposures can cause cancers and other diseases. An interactive new online tool is now available that explores the connection between employment and disease risk in Ontario.
The Ontario Occupational Disease Statistics website presents information about the risk of occupational cancer and other diseases among worker groups in the province. Interactive data tools allow a deeper dive into the risks among different sectors including construction, healthcare, mining, transportation, and metal manufacturing, with more sectors to be added in the coming months. Summary infographics for each sector also highlight key findings that can be used to help make workplaces safer.
The results and data used for the website are generated by the Occupational Disease Surveillance System (ODSS) and other data sources. In Canada, work-related diseases have been poorly tracked, and many go unrecognized. Researchers at the Occupational Cancer Research Centre created the ODSS to help identify workers with high risks of disease in Ontario. The ODSS includes over 2 million workers who received compensation from the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) of Ontario for time off work. The researchers tracked these workers for later diagnoses of cancer and other diseases.
The website serves as a platform to increase occupational disease awareness and share data across Ontario’s occupational health and safety system. The information is also useful for detecting increased disease risks among groups of workers by industry or occupation. Ultimately, these findings can be used to help make changes in the workplace to reduce exposure to harmful substances and to keep workers healthy.
Ontario Occupational Disease Statistics is a partnership between the Occupational Cancer Research Centre and CCOHS supported by funding from the WSIB. The website will continue to expand by industry sectors, and information on occupational exposure and prevention will be added next year.
Visit the Ontario Occupational Disease Statistics website.
Health and Safety To Go
This month’s new podcast features a conversation discussing emotional intelligence and why it's important in the workplace.
It’s not a new term but it’s getting attention as more people explore its ways to help improve their day-to-day lives. This month’s new podcast features a conversation discussing emotional intelligence in the workplace. Sue Freeman, Emotional Intelligence Coach and Experiential Psychotherapist, discusses emotional intelligence, why matters in the workplace, and how we can develop our own emotional quotient (EQ).
The podcast runs 10:11 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Encore Podcast: A Closer Look at Nonvisible Disabilities
According to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, 1 in 5 Canadians between 25-64 years of age have at least one disability. That means there are about 4 million adults experiencing limitations - including physical, chronic pain, cognitive, and mental health issues - many of which are not immediately apparent to others. Accommodating workers with these nonvisible disabilities is not just a legal requirement, but it also makes good business sense.
The podcast runs 5:29 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips, and insights into the health, safety, and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!
As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, CCOHS has extended free availability of helpful online courses and publications until March 31, 2021. Workplaces are encouraged to widely use and share these resources to help prevent the spread and keep workers and communities safe.
More CCOHS Resources:
New COVID-19 Resources
What are my rights when it comes to COVID-19 and health and safety? Can I refuse unsafe work?
Can my employer make it a requirement to wear a mask?
What should I do if I have stress and anxiety about returning to work?
As a worker, it’s understandable to have concerns about COVID-19 and how it affects your job. Your employer is responsible for taking every reasonable precaution to protect you from illness and injury. They should have policies and practices in place which you should know about, understand and follow.
Learn more about your rights and responsibilities, plus what you can do to stay safe while also protecting others, in our COVID-19 Prevention for Workers guidance.
Preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace starts at home. Understand both work and personal factors to reduce the risk of exposure. Take steps to keep yourself and others safe at work and outside of work and know what to do if you are exposed or have symptoms.
Share this infographic on what you can do at work and at home to reduce the risk and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Occupational health and safety laws are always evolving. This month, we highlight amendments to provincial regulations in Quebec respecting occupational health and safety in mines and the landfilling and incineration of residual materials.
Regulation respecting occupational health and safety in mines (Act respecting occupational health and safety): O.C. 945-2020 is in force, except for s. 3, amending ss. 2, 17, 439 and 476 (to update reference to CSA 421-11) and repealing subdivision 2 of Division XI (ss. 481-484).
Regulation respecting the landfilling and incineration of residual materials (Environment Quality Act): O.C. 868-2020 is in force (except for ss. 47-48, 57(paragraph 2) and s. 63) making extensive amendments related to the purpose of the regulation (s. 3) which is to prescribe which residual materials may be accepted at facilities referred to in s. 2, the conditions to which facilities are to be sited and operated, and the conditions that apply to their closure and post-closure management.
For more information regarding recent regulatory changes CCOHS offers a paid subscription service, Canadian enviroOSH Legislation plus Standards, that provides a collection of all the health, safety and environmental legislation you need in one location.
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
© 2021, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety