Quarantine, pandemic, covid-19, and social distancing – it’s all taken a huge toll on the mental health and well-being of the Canadian workforce all across the country.

In fact, a CTV News survey found that many Canadians are now reporting their mental health has suffered tremendously due to the onset of covid-19.

In this blog post, we’ll share with you some common effects social isolation has caused in the workplace, along with tips to help you address mental health concerns.

Table of Contents

Presenteeism vs Absenteeism

You’ve probably heard of the term absenteeism before but have you heard of presenteeism?

According to Carrie, our expert HR Consultant and HX Practice leader here at PaymentEvolution, she says that presenteeism is even more of an issue than absenteeism.

Absenteeism is a term used to refer to absences that are avoidable, habitual and unscheduled, is a source of irritation to employers and co-workers. 

While presenteeism can be described as the lack of being present in the workplace. Examples of presenteeism include burnout, distraction, and a lack of focus.

Presenteeism affects productivity 7.5 times more than absenteeism (absent, arrive late, leave early) according to Statistics Canada and it costs Canadian businesses $15 to $25 billion annually.

If you’re curious to learn more about the effects of absenteeism and presenteeism, feel free to check out our latest podcast episode where Carrie, along with Bob (our Head of Benefits) talk more on the topic.

Addressing Presenteeism in the Workplace

So, how can you as a leader address presenteeism in your workplace?

Well, we’ve got some tips for you.

Plan Virtual Get-Togethers

Carrie recommends that, although we’re all working separately, it’s important you still get some interaction with your colleagues virtually.

A great way to go about it is scheduling casual virtual get-togethers with your team members at least twice a week. Ask them how they’re doing, what they’ve been up to, and get into some casual banter.

For example, here at PaymentEvolution, every Wednesday morning we have a Zoom meeting with our team members where we share stories over a cup of coffee / tea.

And on Friday’s from 4:30pm to 5pm we have what we call “cocktail time”. It’s pretty much a bunch of us on a Zoom call catching up on a Friday evening.

Pick Up the Phone More Often!

Carrie also recommends that you take the time to call one another instead of always relying on instant messaging.

Yes, instant messaging through Slack, Microsoft Teams, or skype might be easier than a conversation but instant messaging also takes away genuine connection building opportunities.

Maybe you have a team member you don’t talk with as much, instead of messaging them asking for a specific file, try calling them up. Who knows, it might lead to a fun conversation and the next thing you know, you’re instant friends.

Research & Commit to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

You might have heard of an Employee Assistance Program before, but what exactly are they?

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety “…employee assistance program, is a confidential, short term, counselling service for employees with personal difficulties that affect their work performance.”

EAP’s are a great resource for your staff members, especially if they’re suffering from a mental health illness.

They’ve been around for years but, here’s the thing, only about 4% of employees actually use them according to a Conference Board of Canada and Mental Health Commission of Canada Survey.

With EAP’s costing employers anywhere from just $3 to $10 with no cost to the employees, why aren’t more employees using the service?

Carrie and Bob have a couple of thoughts on this.

They say the number one factor as to why employees don’t take advantage of this service is because of stigma and discrimination.

They also go on to say that employees are concerned about confidentiality. They’re worried that a team member of theirs will find out they used the service and might spread gossip around the office.

As a leader, here are a couple of ways you can encourage the use of EAP’s in your workplace.

  • Tell your staff members how it works

Your staff members or teammates might not even know what an EAP plan is or how to use it. Give them a quick refresher during a weekly huddle or your next virtual get together.

  • Reinforce that it’s private

Carrie says, when an invoice from the mental health service provider reaches the employer, the invoice won’t use the name of the employee who used the service. This is a great point to bring up with concerned employees who are worried about confidentiality.

Mental Health Training Resource

Managing people can be complicated, so it’s important you have the right training to tackle sensitive situations in the right manner.

Here’s a great resource we recommend for you and your colleagues that’ll provide you the necessary Mental Health training you’ll need to confidently address issues around mental health in your workplace.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada’s basic course provides 12 hours of training and focuses on the ALGEE framework to help you talk about mental health with colleagues, family, friends and strangers:

Here’s a quick break of the key components from the course, just to give you a taste:

  • Assess the risk of suicide and/or harm
  • Listen non-judgementally
  • Give reassurance
  • Encourage professional support
  • Encourage other supports

The course also provides information on the four most common mental health disorders:

  • Substance-related
  • Mood related
  • Anxiety and trauma related
  • Psychotic disorders

If you think this training would be helpful for you or your team, you can click here to check out the course.

What’s next?

If you want to find out more about PaymentEvolution’s EAP programs or you’d like some general HR advice on employee well being you can contact bob@paymentevolution.com or carrie@paymentevolution.com.


  • Sam Vassa

    With a passion for technology, Sam looks for ways to help small companies to compete and save money. He's worked in Foreign Affairs for the Government of Canada, geeked out at Digital Equipment Corp and hung out at Microsoft. He founded PaymentEvolution.com to help businesses like yours.

Leave a Reply