COVID-19: the mask falls, but not the fear of the virus

Some employees will want to keep the mask on, others won’t. Managers will have to ensure that their employees get along well. (Photo: Airfocus Unsplash)

MENTAL HEALTH OF THE EMPLOYEE. While public health has backed the removal of face-covering clothing in nearly all public places, it doesn’t mean everyone is willing to give it up, and this can cause friction in certain quarters.

The key to making this transition smooth is creating a communication plan, say experts interviewed by Offers

“It will be a stressful situation, and rightly so,” emphasizes Manon Truchon, professor at Laval University’s School of Psychology. We must try to prevent this upstream, by sending the clear message that there is zero tolerance for derogatory comments about people who prefer to keep the mask. †

An employer must also explicitly state – and reiterate – what measures are in place to minimize the spread of COVID-19. This will both appease concerned individuals and instill a dose of indulgence in those resisting this emblem of the pandemic.

Especially since, according to the Commission for Standards, Equity, Health and Safety at Work (CNESST), wearing a mask is always recommended “when interacting with people at risk, or for tasks that require a gathering of people in a confined space.” “, specifies the latter in an email sent to Offers

A choice that belongs to the employees

A company that has a duty “to protect the health and to ensure the safety and the physical and mental integrity of the employee”, as stipulated in Article 51 of the Health and Safety at Work Act, even encourages other measures to to accommodate vulnerable workers. Reserve certain places on the work floor for them or let them work from home, for example.

“The employer’s role is to reassure people, but also to explain that some will continue to wear [le masque] for various reasons, says Yvon Hade, occupational and organizational psychologist. The main thing is to explain things. †

Some may remain afraid. It is essential to remember that the company is listening to them, adds Manon Truchon. “It feels good to feel that the door is open. Knowing that when you encounter a problem you are not seen as a stranger and that it is not regarded as a whim, the fear decreases,’ says the specialist in psychology and occupational health and safety. Yvon Hade even suggests identifying the people most concerned about mask removal and inviting them to proactively share their grievances.

“It is certain that we cannot reduce the risk to zero, but for concerned employees it is important to feel that the organization is there to protect them, that it takes it seriously and that it is using the resources at their disposal. to achieve this.” he says.

If, despite efforts to create an environment free from harassment or intimidation and taking additional steps to prevent contamination of an employee, the latter remains anxious, his boss or manager should not hesitate to offer him the seek help from mental health professionals.

“There are limits to what we can do,” the consultant recalls. It is not the role of a boss or an HR advisor to discuss this. †

Prepare for all eventualities

By having an action plan in hand, the company also feels more in control and is less likely to react impulsively or delayed if the situation gets out of hand.

It must prevent an employee’s concerns from turning into fear and then into a source of distraction when present at his workplace. Or that the anger arising from his impression of vulnerability infects his entire environment.

The risk of a conflict breaking out between colleagues is not excluded. If this happens, management should not ignore it. “In 90% of cases, when I intervene, it is because a situation has deteriorated and we have not taken the necessary measures to resolve it.[la discorde]“Warns Yvon Harde.

The latter recommends overcoming the disagreement by remembering what the devices are, but also that the choice to wear the mask is up to the person whose face is being covered.

The management team should be benevolent towards the employees, but at the same time remain firm with the instructions adopted by the company. So, “if an employee wants to lead the fight against the mask in any situation, let him do it, but not in the workplace,” summarizes Yvon Harde.

The two experts consulted agree that a lack of tolerance towards employees who choose to wear face-covering clothing or not is often a reflection of the leadership in place.

“When something goes wrong in a team, it goes back to the organizational culture upstream,” Manon Truchon slips. We have to ask ourselves questions, ask ourselves why we are here, what we can do to change that. †

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