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For many workers, the holiday season is a time to relax with friends and family, away from the duties of their jobs. However, many people work through the holidays, which can often be their busiest, and potentially most stressful, time of the year.
This year, the holidays could look a little different. Many COVID-19-related precautions and restrictions have been relaxed. This change means that there will be more people out in public - in stores, restaurants, and using transportation. Taxi and bus drivers, airline workers, train operators, hospitality workers, and retail workers are just some of the occupations that don’t take time off during the holidays and will continue to commute, travel the roads, and serve customers. And, as always, healthcare services must be available to care for patients.
Understanding workplace stress
Workplace stress is the harmful physical and emotional responses that workers may experience from a combination of high job demands and a low amount of control over the situation. During the holiday season, workers may encounter a variety of factors that can lead to workplace stress. These factors can include increases to the regular workload, accompanied by an increase in pace to meet deadlines. Furthermore, there may not be adequate time to complete the task.
Holiday shopping season has implications for retail workers who may find that they have longer workdays and expanded work schedules. Stress and fatigue can result from working extended or irregular shifts, working longer than 8-hours, or anything that limits the opportunity to get adequate sleep between work shifts.
Dealing with harassing behaviours from customers and a lack of appreciation can also contribute to an unhealthy work environment.
Providing a mentally healthy and safe work environment is the employer’s responsibility. As part of a comprehensive workplace health and safety program, workplaces can prioritize mental health by treating workers in a fair and respectful manner. Employers can show their commitment to a healthy and safe work environment by communicating clear expectations, setting achievable goals for workers, treating workers fairly, and respecting them as individuals. No matter what control measures the organization decides to use, it is important to be specific in their execution.
For example, employers can provide workers with more control over aspects of their jobs, such as by involving them in decision-making and soliciting their input at daily meetings or chats. This participation can provide workers with a sense of empowerment and well-being. Regularly checking in with workers can help reveal sources of stress such as safety issues, ergonomics, and job demands. This feedback can also help to inform employers of the need for training, skills, and resources that workers may require to be successful in their jobs.
There are many more ways to support workers. Well-designed jobs allow for a balanced workload and give the worker some control over their work such as prioritizing their tasks. Eliminating distractions and other demands enables workers to focus on their work. Consider deferring extra tasks until the new year, after the busy holiday season.
Supportive employers are clear about job expectations and make sure that worker job demands are reasonable, with manageable deadlines, hours of work, and clear duties. To help manage the pace of each workday, make sure that workers can take regular breaks during their shifts and provide them with a comfortable space to do so.
Along with these considerations, employers (and co-workers) can show appreciation and recognize the contributions and skills of others. Acknowledging and rewarding workers helps to build their self-esteem, encourages them to exceed expectations, and enhances team success.
Many workers struggle with the effects of stress throughout any part of the year, but the holidays can be more difficult. Prioritizing their mental health can go a long way in making them feel valued and supported. By being prepared, checking in with workers, and prioritizing a balanced and manageable workload, employers can help reduce the stress that often comes with the holidays, and make sure their workers feel safe, supported, confident, and empowered in their jobs.
To learn more about mental health in the workplace, visit CCOHS’ Healthy Minds at Work website.
Tips and Tools
Holiday season is here -- a time to share with others and spread joy. It’s also respiratory virus season, with many communities across Canada experiencing rising cases of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, influenza (flu), and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Many respiratory diseases spread through prolonged close contact with someone who is sick. That’s why it’s important to help keep workplaces, homes, and communities safe by remaining focused on preventing the spread of germs.
Take steps to protect yourself and others by:
Be sure to follow current guidance from your local public health and government authorities. Using protective measures against respiratory viruses will help contribute to healthy and safe workplaces throughout the holiday season.
CAREX Canada has released their newly updated eWORK Online tool.
eWORK Online is an interactive tool for exploring CAREX Canada’s occupational exposure estimates to known and suspected carcinogens. This version allows for improved, customizable queries, and offers more in-depth results than the previous version. Results show the number of workers exposed to these carcinogens nationally, by province, by industry, and by occupation.
CCOHS releases new podcasts each month to help you stay current and informed on workplace health, safety, and well-being in Canada.
Featured Podcast: Temps Down, Heads Up: Working Safely in the Cold
There’s a lot more to working safely in the cold than bundling up in layers. In the latest CCOHS podcast: what workers and employers need to know.
Podcast runs 6:34. Listen to the podcast now.
Encore Podcast: Preventing Holiday Stress and Anxiety
The holidays can be a special time of year but for some, the endless "to do" list can be overwhelming. CCOHS shares ways to prevent holiday stress and anxiety this season.
The podcast runs 5:56 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Explore the changing world of work at CCOHS Forum, returning September 26-27, 2023, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
There is no other health and safety event like this in Canada. Make a plan to join us for this two-day national event that will bring together leaders, change makers, and subject experts representing government, labour, and workplaces, to share their knowledge and experience around current and emerging health and safety issues.
Save the date:
The Changing World of Work
Sept 26-27, 2023
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Watch for registration and program details coming soon.
Are you studying occupational health and safety in Canada or know someone who is? We have two scholarships worth $3,000 each to give away, and you could be eligible to win.
The Dick Martin Scholarship will be awarded to one university and one college student pursuing their education in a field related to occupational health and safety. To apply, those interested will need to complete an online application, submit a cover letter outlining their aspirations for a career in the health and safety industry, and write a 1,000-1,200-word essay on one of two topics related to occupational health and safety:
Applications are open until 11:59 p.m. EST, January 31, 2023. Scholarship rules, cover letter and essay criteria, and other guidelines are available on our website.
Are you an apprentice or tradesperson working in the skilled trades? The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, a non-profit trying to better understand apprentice experiences across the country, is seeking input on apprentice experiences and challenges on substance use. This information will influence policy decisions and help create tools and resources that will assist apprentices across Canada.
The survey takes approximately 10-15-minutes to complete and in exchange for their input, participants will be entered to win a $100 cash prize. Participation is completely voluntary and all responses are confidential. The survey closes on December 31, 2022.
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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.
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