Mental Health Problems and the Workplace

October is Mental Health Month. Recently there has been bigger mindfulness of the impact of mental health problems on individuals and the workplace. The economic impact is realized through direct treatment costs to the health care system as well as indirect costs, such as reduced or lost productivity due to absenteeism.

Mental health problems account for about half of employee absences due to illness each year in Canada for example, 3.5 days lost per employee per year are due to mental health problems. It is estimated that mental illness results in 35 million lost workdays each year in Canada.’

Employees living with mental health problems may feel and behave out of character at home and work. There may be feelings of things not quite right, yet they are unable to pinpoint the problem. Their co-workers, supervisors and family members may start to notice a change in mood and behaviour.

 

 Signs that indicate an employee or colleague may have a mental health problem are:

·      Regular late arrivals or often absent

·      Lack of teamwork or an over-all disinterest in working with co-workers

·      Lower output

·      Increased mishaps or safety problems

·      Numerous complaints of exhaustion or unexplained pains

·      Difficulty focusing, not being decisive or forgetting things

·      Making apologies for missed deadlines or poor work

·      Decreased attention or involvement in one’s work

·      Working excessive overtime over a prolonged period

·      Expressions of outlandish or grand ideas

·      Displays of irritation or pointing the finger at others

 

It is important to highlight that people behaving in these ways may be just having a bad day or week or dealing with a difficult situation in their personal life that may be temporary. A pattern that continues for a more extended period, however, may point to an underlying mental health problem.

 

Stress is a consistent part of life and work, and it can be positive or negative. Unwarranted hurtful stress through life events, including workplace issues, can contribute to mental health problems. Work itself can be expected to generate a certain level of stress associated with meeting deadlines and expectations, the need to feel valued and the loss of control over one’s time.

 

There are many causes of workplace stress. One key to effective stress management is maintaining awareness of the potential stressors and readiness to address them before they become problematic. Some of the most critical sources of work-related stress are listed below.

·    Poor communication

·    Incongruity in work demands, individual ability and amount of control over working practices

·    Work overload and work underload

·    Shift work and/or night work

·    Segregation, isolation and/or unstructured support for home workers

·    Short-term contracts

·    Role conflict, uncertainty and changing roles

·    The uneven weight assigned by management to consultation, support and control

·    Lack of training for managers in communication and people skills

·    Idleness

·    Uncomfortable physical workspace

·    Introduction of new technology, if not planned and gradual

·    The culture of presenteeism, in which an employee feels the need to be seen working at all times

·    Work-life imbalance

·    Home-based stresses that support or feed off of work-based stresses

 

Managing workplace stress can include training for employees to raise awareness about the causes and effects of stress, as well as to learn skills for coping with stress at work and in their personal lives.

 

Research has shown that some job stressors are worse than others, such as jobs that continuously involve imposed deadlines over an extended period and give individuals little control over the day-to-day organization of their work (high demand/low control). These jobs can lead to more than double the rate of heart and cardiovascular problems. As well as significantly higher rates of anxiety, depression and fell of being undermined. High demand/low control jobs also lead to substantially higher alcohol, prescription and over-the-counter drug use, and a significantly higher susceptibility to infectious diseases.’

 

Jobs that require high physical or mental effort but offer little in the way of compensation, status, financial gain or career enhancement (high effort/low reward) also affect employee stress levels. These jobs are associated with triple the rate of cardiovascular problems and significantly higher rates of depression, anxiety and conflict-related problems

 

The health of workers does not have to be compromised by stress. Changes to the workplace can make for a more mentally healthy workplace, especially when employees feel adequately rewarded and have greater control of their work.

 

Mental health problems can seriously affect someone’s ability to work. If left untreated and the mental health problem worsens, the employee may need to stop working altogether.

 

On the other hand, employees may try to continue to work knowing that they are not performing to their usual standards. If mental health problems are acknowledged early, and proper treatment is obtained, most people can quickly return to their regular performance at work, and much unhappiness and suffering can be avoided.

 

Monika B. Jensen Ph.D
TEL: 905-683-9953

WEBSITE: www.aviarygroup.ca
PRINCIPAL
FAX: 905-683-9912

 

 

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The answers municipal governments have been looking for?

Municipal governments are facing multiple, growing, and overlapping challenges. Yet, there are tools available to address these challenges that are not being used to their full potential. Market-based policies such as well-designed user fees can help reduce traffic, cut water use, and improve solid waste management, while generating revenue that can be used to fill financial gaps.

These challenges include:

  • Municipal infrastructure is aging and faces a growing investment gap;
  • Municipalities have limited ability to raise revenues. Only so much can be raised from property taxes. They also often face constraints on debt financing; and
  • To attract people and investment, livability is key: cities must provide job and recreational opportunities, ensure affordability, make it easy to move people and products, and protect clean air and water.

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NetFore Systems upgrades its Municipal Staff Mobile Application to allowing staff to capture new issues & service requests on the fly while internet or data services are unavailable!

AccessE11, Ottawa, Canada

Home grow Canadian software developer Netfore Systems Inc., updated their popular AccessE11 Mobile Application to help increase productivity and reduce administrative paperwork for the municipal worker while in the field.

A long-standing problem that rural municipal workers face is the need for paper-based processes to record new issues or service requests while in the field because they too often have no data access. This is a productivity barrier that NetFore has addressed with the latest release of its popular AccessE11 cloud-based issue management software product and accompanying a mobile application.

“With previous releases of the AccessE11 solution, we significantly reduced the need for both municipal office and field staff to rely on paper to close the loop on managing citizen complaints and service requests”, says NetFore’s CEO Ken Workun, “however this did not completely solve the problem where a new issue is found by a work crew or a citizen raises an issue with a field worker directly”.

Understanding this issue, NetFore has introduced capabilities to add a complaint or service request from the AccessE11 mobile application even if the user has no data or internet access. “The real difference is the off-line functionality” comments Rene Villeneuve – NetFore’s Software Architect overseeing the project. “We made municipal issue management even easier by taking things one step further.  When an AccessE11 user’s mobile device acquires a data signal or attaches to a wi-fi network, any new cases are automatically uploaded to the AccessE11 database”.

For By-Law officer Nancy-Ann Gauthier, the new off-line case creation feature “means that I can do my full job while on the road even when I do not have a data signal… I liked the mobile App before, but I love it now!” In the town of South Stormont Fire Prevention Officer, Nick MacGillivray finds the ability to create cases while on the road saves time and helps when a call comes to in from a citizen who has an issue with a burn permit, “I now can create the case where ever I am,  in seconds, without having to go to the office or find a data signal”.  Blake Henderson – Public Works Superintendent at North Stormont knows that the AccessE11 mobile application has saved loads of time and “has increased staff productivity.”

 

This new feature is now available as a core feature for all AccessE11 Mobile Application users.

Visit AccessE11.com  to find out more.

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Implementation of an Enterprise-wide Common Street Address Database for the City of Hamilton

Problem

The City of Hamilton has many service delivery applications utilizing and storing resident addresses. For example, street addresses are solicited from the resident in a free form method and are never validated against a common address database.  Thus, the City has numerous instances of address databases that are not accurate or consistent, which are used on a daily basis to communicate to the residents. In many cases, these address databases are misused and often invalid addresses cause breakdown of communications.  This has led to embarrassment for the City, anger by the residents and in some cases legal action.

Challenge

The challenge is to establish a single authoritative address database which all service delivery applications can valid against.  Establishing which is most correct and then comparing others to get the best of breed is the greatest challenge.  Other challenges are the adoption of a single authoritative database, “clean up” existing databases and encourage application stewards to use the single authoritative database as truth.

Resolution

The City engaged a subject matter expert to help collect business requirements, design a solution and implement this solution. The technical solution consisted of a consolidated database model, application database cleanup, address maintenance tool, redlining tool for identifying address issues and a method to deliver addresses to other service delivery applications.

Also a sustainability model to ensure that addresses were maintained accurately and on a timely basis by identified stewards. The address model would ensure that new or updated addresses would be available to other service delivery applications.

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Dealing with Escalated Situations in Your Workplace

Resolving workplace conflict is an expected part of the job managers and Human Resource Practitioners. Whether you work in education, healthcare, human services, business, or any field, you might deal with angry, hostile, or noncompliant behaviour every day. Your response to the defensive reaction is often the key to avoiding a physical confrontation with someone who has lost control of their behaviour.

These ten De-Escalation Tips will help you respond to challenging behaviour in the safest, most efficient way possible.

  1. Be empathetic and non-judgmental
  2. Respect personal space
  3. Use non-threatening nonverbal communication
  4. Avoid overacting
  5. Focus on feelings
  6. Ignore challenging questions
  7. Set limits
  8. Choose wisely what you insist upon
  9. Allow silence for reflection
  10. Allow time for decisions

 

 To help you towards more efficient conflict de-escalation and resolution, the following basic steps can be followed:

  • Obtain the name of the person with whom you are speaking: People respond favourably to their own name. It also makes the conversation more personal. Ask for the person’s name early in the piece and use it throughout the discussion.
  • Use Active Listening: Clarifying, paraphrasing and using open-ended questions ensure that the individual you are speaking with knows you are aware of their situation and frustrations. Resaying a person’s own words back to them demonstrates that you have understood entirely what they were trying to say.       
  • Show support and suspend judgement: Empathy needs to be shown during conflict situations. Respecting the other person’s point of view even if you do not agree entirely will be the first step to resolving the conflict. 
  • Get them to agree and say yes: Having the person agree with you on general factual points leads the conversation towards a more favourable outcome. If you can show that you have understood their point of view by making clarifying statements you generate a state where the other person must reply with an affirmative response. The sooner you can get the person to say yes then sooner the conflict will de-escalate. It always works.
  • Avoid clichés: The worst of these being “Calm Down”. Did you ever notice how people who tell you to calm down are the ones who got you mad in the first place? Saying those words during a verbal conflict usually gets the classic retort “I AM CALM” very loudly usually with an animated hand gestures as well.       
  • Show empathy: You need to show compassion and understanding and give the conflict your full attention. Do not make impulsive decisions. Take the time to work through the problem.
  • Consistency in Courtesy: The person you are dealing with first thing in the morning deserves the same level of respect, civility and patience as the individual you are dealing with at 2 in the afternoon. They warrant the same high level of service and professionalism as the first person you spoke to. You need to maintain that position of positive brand ambassador and an excellent professional service.

There are many physical aspects of being mindful of in conflict situations. It is important always to be aware of features of conflict such as your body language, your emotions, your judgement, and your initial thoughts. Keeping these in mind is essential when trying to de-escalate a problematic situation.

Monika B. Jensen is the principal of the Aviary Group, consulting company that address workplace discord.  For more information, visit www.aviarygroup.ca

 

 

 

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The Cost of ARCHITECTURAL VISUALIZATION (or how long is a piece of string?)

Arch-Viz allows stakeholders to see or visualize architectural designs or property developments within their anticipated environment at the very early planning stages, well before the project is built.

It is an elastic term ranging from simple 2D hand drawings of a “sketch up” architectural model all the way to digitally created augmented reality where computer generated assets can be placed within a filmed environment and may include as much reality as is desired such as, for example: including spokespersons conducting a tour around or through the created environment; actual drone or simulated flying over or around the setting or environment including flying right through the interior with a full 360 view.

Developers and Architects know they would love to have high end dynamic visualizations of their new property concept as the benefits are obvious: finance is easier to attract, it will sell easier to prospective tenants; planning boards will approve quicker; and any objectors can hopefully be soothed into acceptance. Arch-Viz allows options in design, color, textures, orientations which is a luxury for a buyer or end-user to explore, to experiment, to be able to see before committing to the a project.

Digitally, there really is no end to what can be done as advance arch-viz studios use the same techniques as film and television visual effects companies and indeed many arch-viz studios started in that industry.

But for many projects costing in the hundreds of millions involving multiple diverse stakeholders there is a tendency to rely on a static model from Sketch up and then use Photoshop to make it “glamorous” – this image of the project, this rendering, and is usually just the one is used by the developer from city hall to the bank manager even though it is neither effective nor efficient.

Is there a fear of the cost of dynamic CGI renderings? Do bricks and mortar people view it as a soft marketing cost without any thought to the money saving benefits? How much is too much if it helps sell the building quickly; secure financing; obtain planning approval or appease concerned NIMBYS.

Asking point blank: “how much?” is not always fair!! Creating advanced dynamic 3D renderings is a labour intensive process. There are hundreds of questions needed to be answered: What Design? How big? Where? What materials? What assets do you already have? For who? Who is the audience?   It is like asking a home renovator: “how much to build a kitchen?” or asking an architect: “how much to design a building?” without any further details!

The task of an arch-viz studio is to manually create the assets (the building, the bridge, the apartment) which includes all the parts which go into it – so if you are showing what an apartment would like then generally all the contents therein need to be created by an artist. So that means labor and perhaps a lot of it. And these viz artists have gone to school for at least 2 years and need about 5 years of experience before they are good enough – and they know it and get paid accordingly!

While important to the determination of purchasing Arch-Viz, instead of solely asking “how much?” the Project Principal should be asking one simple question: “what is the experience we wish to create for the buyer or the end-user of our project?”. The more the project is meant to be an “experience” such as a lifestyle community, then the more dynamic 3D movement visualizations and renderings should be utilized to assist stakeholders in the decision making process.

What we can say about cost is that the simple 2D renderings/visualizations will generally be $1,000 .. when you add “movement” to the image then you double the cost; when you become within the image it doubles again and generally as you add more and more movement, you will be doubling the cost. Other services can be included to the presentation such as drone camera shots; script writing; professional actors; dramatic sound etc. In other words, when you start moving towards an infomercial or publicity videos you will then start paying as you would for a regular commercial.

Granted, high end 3D dynamic high end CGI renderings may not be necessary or appropriate for every project. However, each project should be looked at for its experience sought, the stakeholders priorities, project magnitude, time, and risk, and within that milieu subject arch-viz services to a cost benefit analysis. For many Planning Consultants and Architects then, it is straightforward that a fraction of a fraction of the overall budget should be spent on visualizing the development.

Arch-viz is an inexpensive way to decide how a project will look, and should look within the its planned environment as design changes are far easier and less expensive to make at the planning stage. Make no mistake, while arch-viz firms do try for “good, fast, cheap” it can be difficult to achieve and often, will only be two out of three, but as long as there is value, then it is not a bad compromise.

Check our Vimeo page to see more videos

Brian Simpson BBA, MBA, LLB

Principal at CityFX Inc. 42 Wright St., St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada     L2T 3J4        289.362.3139         www.cityfx.ca

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What does Bill 132 (Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act) mean to you and your workplace?

One in four women and one in ten men say they have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace. Of the reported cases of workplace sexual harassment, 55% were committed by co-workers; 39% of which involved a supervisor or manager. 8% of those who are sexually harassed at work report the harassment.

Recently there have been some changes made to Bill 168 – Violence in the Workplace, which gives employers’ statutory obligations. Bill 132, Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, which received royal assent on March 8, 2016, requires all employers to have policies and programs including an investigation procedure. The essential changes brought by Bill 132 include: an employer is required to create a workplace harassment program; the program must include reporting and investigating tools for incidents of workplace harassment and violence; the employers must ensure that all complaints are investigated, and investigations are completed in a timely fashion and a new power to the Ministry of Labour (MOL) to order an independent workplace harassment investigation at the employer’s expense.

September 8, 2016, now looms for companies as the date for compliance with Bill 132. The amendments stand to change dramatically how workplace harassment is addressed in Ontario. The new OHSA obligations and expectations have been set and are accompanied by expanded government oversight. Harassment in the workplace is already a challenging issue that could engage multiple forums, with complaints possibly being advanced through a grievance, civil claim, complaint under the Human Rights Code, and, depending on the severity of the conduct, the criminal justice system.

Also, and particularly, the Bill amends the OHSA to require an employer to conduct an investigation of a workplace harassment complaint that is “appropriate in the circumstances.” The phrase “appropriate in the circumstances” is not defined. Further, the Ministry of Labour has not published any guidance material to communicate what factors will be considered by inspectors when determining whether an investigation meets this standard. Assuming that the inspectors could be evaluating investigations against expected best practices which would include such things as an impartial investigator, a collection of all relevant information, and procedural fairness to the alleged harasser could create challenges for employers as the appropriateness of an investigation may be evaluated in hindsight.

Consequences of flawed investigations would impair or prejudice the employer’s ability to establish just cause for termination or discipline. There would also be an issue of due diligence under the OHSA and Human Rights Code. Consequences would include aggravated, punitive or Code damages; penalties from the Ministry of Labour under the OHSA and reinstatement in unionized workplaces. Some of the critical mistakes some employers are making include: failing to act at all; taking the complaint seriously; failure to train investigators; inability to plan, improper or inadequate files; and retention of evidence.

Many situations happening in the workplace may prompt the necessity for an investigation, such as allegations of discrimination or harassment, workplace bullying, inappropriate use of the internet or social media, policy breaches, or statutory violations. Often, employers attempt to resolve minor issues informally through discussions with the employees involved. When the allegations are more serious, employers may depend on managers to conduct internal investigations. However, in many situations, having an organization deal directly with the problem is not necessarily the best approach – informal discussions may rapidly collapse, and basic investigative steps may be overlooked by inexperienced managers, making matters worse. A vital skill for any employer is identifying when a formal investigation by an external investigator is appropriate.

Note: meeting the requirements of Bill 132 could lead to mistakes that can be costly to your organization.

Be prepared. Be proactive.

Contact Monika Jensen, Principal Aviary Group at mjensen@aviarygroup.ca  or (905) 683-9953 if you need a complaint investigated or mediated.

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Embracing Civility for a More Satisfying WorkPlace

Complaints of harassment, discrimination, bullying and now violence and disrespectful workplaces have become a standard concern for managers and Human Resources specialist. As we cope with the many arising situations, I have found the word incivility is becoming frequently used. So what does incivility mean? To define it, let’s look at how the Institute of Civility describes it. Civility is about more than merely being polite. Civility requires a profound self-awareness being characterized by true respect for others. Civility involves the tremendous hard work of remaining present even with those with whom we have inherent and perhaps fierce differences. It is about continuously being open to hearing, to learning, to teaching and to changing. It pursues mutual ground as a start point for discussions when differences may occur, while at the same time be aware that differences are heartening. It is persistence, grace, and strength of character.

Recently research has expanded our practical understanding of incivility by identifying behaviours which employees have deemed disrespectful. The most frequently occurring forms include: neglecting to turn off cell phones; talking behind someone’s back; doubting someone’s judgement, using demeaning or disparaging language, gestures or behaviours; communicating with the intent to belittle or degrade, eye rolling, giving the silent treatment and using sarcasm; gossip and slander; paying no attention or ignoring someone; taking credit for someone else’s work or ideas; intimidation by intentionally using fear to manipulate others. It may also include yelling, invading personal space, throwing things, slamming things and losing one’s temper; and sabotaging by setting someone up to fail or intentionally creating a situation to make another person look foolish or incompetent. Also may include hate-ism by deliberately pointing at a victim based on age, gender, race or sexual orientation are instances of profiling because of an “ism.”

Many examples include blaming others rather than accepting responsibility; checking email or texting during a meeting; using email to send a difficult message to avoid facing the person, which may be misunderstood and misinterpreted; not saying “please” or “thank you”; not listening and talking over or down to someone.
The cost of incivility is high. It is not only about money! There is research to support impacts on performance through lost time and absenteeism, lack of creativity, less helpfulness and less likely to assist another employee. The impact of teams is on the level of energy, emotional engagement, and performance. The conduct reaches into our physical health; impacts our customers and commitment to the organization and willingness of employees to stay with their companies. All affecting the bottom line of productivity.
So how do we address these issues? I would like to explore some recommendations for your consideration. It starts with us as individuals. Managing ourselves. How? If you throw a ball at the wall…it comes back. It works with people too. If you are, mean…it comes back! People will be mean to you.

How can you be kind and patient all the time when life is so stressful—and just plain hard? You do it by embracing civility! Civility requires self-awareness.

With self-awareness you can:
 Control your attitude
 Manage your moods
 Choose behaviours that do not negatively impact your life or disrupt those around you

Can you…
 Feel and express annoyance, irritation or frustration without hurting others— and then let it go?
 Accept and even appreciate that other people have needs and opinions which are different from your own?
 Encourage and enjoy the successes of others?
 Recognize when someone else feels irritated, upset or frustrated and keep yourself from reacting impulsively in response?

As leaders, we need to model. The Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy wrote: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves.” Employees look to leaders for guidance and someone to aspire too. What are they seeing? Watch your language and put away your smartphones when engaging with your staff. Be mindful of the perils of emails and other electronic communication. Pick up the phone or set up a face to face meeting instead. Take immediate and corrective action when warranted. Rude and disrespectful behaviours emerge quickly and sometimes without warning. As the leader, you need to respond at the moment. By delaying a reaction or action, it sends out mixed messages to the offender as well as the entire team. Take all complaints seriously, realizing that coming forward by the individual is difficult, and they need to know they are supported.

We attend seminars and workshop on harassment prevention, Creating Respectful Workplace and Violence in the Workplace. I have put together a workshop on “How Embracing Civility can Create More Satisfying Work Environments”. The agenda is:
• Why Civility Matters
• It Starts with You!
• Do What You Say and Say What You Mean
• Good Fences Make Great Neighbours
• Working in the Salad Bowl
• Eliminate Gossip and Bullying
• You Can’t Always Get What You Want
• Taking It to the Extreme
• Paving the Path to Civility

Contact Monika Jensen, Principal, Aviary Group, at mjensen@aviarygroup.ca  if you are interested.

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What is your Asset Management Plan?

 

What is your Asset Management Plan?

 

After nearly ten years in and around Municipal Government, I understand the pressures you are face. Staff turnover, increasing administrative and operational demands, and reduced outside funding are just some of the significant pressures municipalities are facing. Unfortunately, the forecast isn’t so rosy either.  The aging workforce, deteriorating infrastructure, and will only make things more challenging in the years to come.  This is why it is more important than ever to get the most value out of each and every dollar spent by developing and implementing an Asset Management Plan.

 

What is Asset Management Planning?

 

Prioritizing needs over wants by ensuring timely investments in infrastructure.

 

Needs for an Asset Management Plan     

  • Aging and decaying infrastructure
  • Higher expectations from the public regarding levels of service
  • Higher health and safety standards
  • Increased regulations
  • Growth

Top Benefits of an Asset Management Plan

  • Reduces unpleasant surprises
  • Helps in achieving consistent levels of service
  • Helps in establishing policies and benchmarks for performance
  • Provides for easier budgeting
  • Reduces Municipal risk

·          All Federal Government Gas Tax recipients will be required to have an Asset Management Plan in place by March, 2018.

 

Develop a clearer picture of the state of your assets by developing an Asset Management Plan. You and your stakeholders will be better informed about asset operation, maintenance, and renewal decisions.

 

Contact Richardson Municipal Solutions today for your free Asset Management assessment.

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