May 05, 2021

Managing Mental Health as a Canadian Business Owner During COVID-19

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce brings together a vast network of over 450 chambers of commerce and boards of trade and more than 200,000 businesses, from all regions and sectors of the economy. This network represents diverse viewpoints; the opinions expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

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By now, every business owner knows that managing the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic is a marathon – not a sprint. For over a year now, Canadian businesses have navigated through social distancing restrictions, changing customer behaviours and unprecedented economic circumstances. And while both business owners and employees have shown incredible resilience, these challenges may be taking a toll on their mental health.

Every day should provide you with an opportunity to check in on the well-being of yourself and your employees. But with May 3 to 9, 2021 marking Mental Health Week in Canada, it’s a good time for business owners to check in on their own and their employees’ psychological well-being. For those looking to do so, here are four steps to consider:

Remember to put yourself first.
Canadian business owners are often the rock that employees, colleagues and communities rely upon during turbulent times – and for good reason. A recent RBC Small Business survey revealed that business owners cite greater confidence than the average Canadian to remain resilient when faced with setbacks, with nearly 9 out of 10 business owners reporting they can bounce back compared to 72% in the general population polled. And while business owners are certainly more resilient than most, it’s also important that they know how to recognize their own limits.

According to Chelsea King, a registered psychologist at Wello, you can’t truly help others until you take the necessary steps to help yourself. “Managers lead by example – they inoculate the environment with the culture they want to grow. Even if you’re not feeling it, behaving in a way that is open, responsible and directed towards a productive, positive outcome can influence those around you to do the same,” King explains.

As such, ensure that you make time for sleep, family, exercise – and anything else that makes you feel good. In doing so, you not only strengthen your own mind and body, but you also demonstrate to your staff that it’s OK to prioritize their own needs.

Check in with employees and follow up with resources.
As you’re managing your well-being, carve out space and time where you can to check in on your employees. Whether through in-person meetings, video debriefs or even email, there are so many ways we can reach out to employees to let them know you’re there to support them.

“Not all employees will be proactive with sharing their feelings of stress or anxiety, so it’s up to the manager to take the first step,” advises King. “Let your employees know that you understand this is a hard time, and that you offer a safe space.”

After your check-in, don’t forget to follow up with resources and tools that can help support your employees. For this, King suggests putting together a mental wellness checklist, as well as sending out support contacts and helpful websites such as Anxiety Canada, Very Well Family or CAMH. In addition, you may also want to look into employee benefits programs, like Wello, which offer virtual and accessible healthcare benefits, including enhanced mental health support. These can be critical in providing additional support to employees across every aspect of their health.

Free up your most precious resources – time and energy.
Managing mental well-being for yourself and your employees means making time – something that is in short supply for many at the moment.

“In a very sudden span, many Canadian businesses were forced into an unprecedented situation. While we know owners are often running full steam in the midst of a crisis just to keep things afloat, it can be helpful to take a break and to see if there are any further opportunities to streamline your business,” advises Greg Grice, Executive Vice President, Business Financial Services, RBC. “For example – are there digital solutions available to help you run your business more efficiently? Can you automate or streamline back office activities like invoicing, payroll or cash management?”

On this front, be sure to check out what solutions your vendors, such as your bank, have available. Some may bring to the table special offers or integrated solutions that help you save even more time and effort – energy that you can then put towards self-care.

Don’t go it alone.
Especially in stressful times, it’s essential to remember that there are others around you available for advice and support. “Whether you’re working from home or with fewer colleagues at your place of business, the change in the work environment typically takes away much of the social element of work – where many employees develop personal relationships and support structures. In times like these, it’s become really important to maintain relationships right now,” says King.

Don’t hesitate to lean on your professional network when needed, as your business advisor, mentor or other trusted members of your network can offer not only a sounding board for business ideas or advice, but can also be a sympathetic ear in times of stress. Only by reaching out and coming together, can we all – employees, business owners and Canadians alike – support each other through these unprecedented times.

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